'Amendment to election rules not person specific'

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Islamabad, Sep 18: Defending the amendment to election rules for presidential polls, Pakistan Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (Retd) Qazi Muhammad Farooq has clarified that the move was not ''person-specific'' and would apply to all presidential candidates.

''Exercising the powers under Paragraph 22 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution, the CEC with the approval of the President has made the amendment, in clause (a) to sub-rule (3) of Rule 5 of the Presidential Election Rules, 1988, which relates to discretionary summary inquiry to be conducted at the time of scrutiny of nomination papers,'' a statement, which was issued here yesterday after a meeting of the Election Commission, said, the Nation reported.

''The rule has been updated for all candidates and is not person specific,'' it added.

The Election Commission amended the rules for the presidential polls, making the various conditions for being a parliamentarian no longer applicable to the President.

Thus the Returning Officer for the election has been stripped of the power to conduct a summary inquiry or reject any nomination paper if the candidate is subject to disqualification from being elected as, or from being, a member of parliament as provided in Article 63 of the Constitution.

The move triggered angry reactions from Opposition parties which they said was being done to facilitate the re-election bid by President Pervez Musharraf. They termed it an ''utter violation of the Constitution.'' The CEC clarified that Article 41(2) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, provides that: ''A person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim of not less than forty-five years of age and is qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly.'' He said, in light of the precedents set by the Supreme Court on the petitions of Pakistan Lawyers Forum, 2005, and Qazi Hussain Ahmed, 2002, the amedment was done to bring Article 63 in conformity with the provisions of Article 41(2).


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