Candidates running for the August 22 National Assembly by-elections for NA-48 will now get a say in deciding the fate of Anjum Aqeel Khan’s attempts to restore his candidacy for the elections.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has summoned all 22 candidates contesting the capital’s NA-48 constituency to appear before the commission on Tuesday regarding the hearing of Khan’s case.
Khan, who was elected Member National Assembly (MNA) from NA-48 in 2008, ran for the May 11 general elections from the same seat on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ticket, but finished second to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Javed Hashmi by a 21,000 vote margin. Hashmi later vacated the seat in favour of his home constituency in Multan.
On Monday, two commission members — Justice Shahzad Akbar from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Justice Fazlur Rehman from Balochistan — heard the case in which Khan has claimed that his nomination papers were withdrawn on July 29 without his consent.
The members adjourned the hearing till Tuesday and directed that all other candidates be present at it.
ECP Spokesperson Khurshid Alam said the other candidates have been summoned because they are a party to the by-elections.
“If, for instance, the election date is changed because of Anjum Aqeel Khan, the other candidates will be affected,” Alam said. “So the commission wants to give them a chance to be heard, as is the case with court proceedings.”
The PML-N was expected to award the NA-48 ticket to former Rawalpindi MNA Hanif Abbasi. However, a day before the July 30 deadline to withdraw nomination papers, the party decided against Abbasi because of resistance within the party against his candidacy.
By that time, Khan’s nomination papers had also been withdrawn, allegedly by his legal counsel without his consent. PML-N’s official ticket then went to Advocate Ashraf Gujjar, who it is understood will be most affected if the ECP decides to restore Khan’s candidacy.
Gujjar, who has been allotted the PML-N election symbol, has maintained that the party has given him the go-ahead to contest the elections and that Khan will have to contest as an independent candidate even if the ECP’s verdict goes in his favour.
Khan filed a complaint with the ECP to restore him as the PML-N’s official candidate for NA-48 after a Returning Officer (RO) rejected his application on July 30 for cancelling the nomination papers withdrawal.
The RO has said the legal counsel was a responsible person and would not take any step without consulting Khan first.
Schoolteacher-turned real estate agent-turned real estate developer Khan, who was embroiled in slew of controversies during his term as MNA, said he was confident that he would get justice from the ECP. But he added he would not pursue the candidacy if the party leadership was averse to it.
“The party leadership has not told me anything about Gujjar’s candidacy,” he said. “I’ll go ahead if the party wants me to, but if it directs me to stop pursuing the case tomorrow, I will respect the decision.”
PML-N General Secretary Zafar Iqbal Jhagra issued a statement on Monday evening that the party’s parliamentary board has awarded the party’s official ticket to Gujjar after complete consultation. Jhagra said Gujjar is the party’s candidate for NA-48 and party chief Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif validated Gujjar’s ticket.
He urged PML-N workers in the capital to support Gujjar’s election campaign in the constituency. The PTI has fielded Asad Umar as its candidate for the by-elections, while the Jamaat-e Islami has withdrawn its candidate — Mian Aslam.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2013.
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