Pak EC allows Sharif brothers to contest by-polls

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{image-pakistan flag_16052008.jpg}Lahore, May 16 : Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif had a sigh of relief last evening when the country's Election Commission accepted their nomination papers for the June 18 by-polls. Interestingly, the same Election Commission had rejected the duo's nomination papers ahead of the February 18 general elections, saying that they were involved in different 'cases'.

Nawaz Sharif had filed nominations papers from NA-123 (Lahore) and NA-52 (Rawalpindi), while Shahbaz Sharif will be contesting the by-polls from PP-154 (Lahore) constituency. Returning officers in these three constituencies dismissed all objections to their running in the by-elections, before accepting their nomination papers, reported The News. Besides, nomination papers of SCBA president Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, former railways minister Sheikh Rashid, Sarfraz Nawaz for NA-55 (Rawalpindi), and Captain (R) Safdar, son-in-law of Mian Nawaz Sharif, for NA-52 (Rawalpindi) were also accepted.

Akhlaq Ahmad Guddu of PML-Q and Noor Elahi, an Independent candidate, had raised objections against the eligibility of Nawaz Sharif to contest the by-elections, pleading that he was not eligible to participate in the elections because he was facing a life term in a plane hijacking case by an anti-terrorism court in Karachi. He also argued that Nawaz Sharif's papers were rejected on Dec 3, 2007 on the same ground.

But, Nawaz's counsel Ashtar Ausaf Ali argued that the then President Rafiq Tarar had pardoned Nawaz Sharif, and once a 'conviction' is pardoned it can't be agitated before any forum. He further argued that the petitioner did not produce any document in support of his objections and the earlier order passed by the returning officer. Chaudhry Badruddin, accepting the arguments of Nawaz's counsel, rejected the objection petition.

"It was the duty of the objector to produce relevant documents to substantiate his objections but he failed to do so despite the fact he had sufficient time to do so. "Nomination papers of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif are accepted because of non-availability of documentary proofs of objections," the paper quoted the returning officer as saying in his observation.

Later, talking to journalists, the petitioner's counsel said the dismissal and acceptance of Nawaz's papers on the same grounds had put a question mark on the impartiality of the Election Commission. He said that under Article 45 of the Constitution, President of Pakistan could only commute a sentence and he has no power to pardon conviction. Only an acquittal order by an appellate court could end the conviction, he added.

Similarly, another petitioner Chaudhry Farooq Haider said Shahbaz Sharif should be disqualified from contesting the by-polls due to his involvement in the contempt of court case in 1997, alleging that he had instigated people to attack the Supreme Court building.

But, in his case too the Returning Officer rejected the objections and accepted the nomination papers.


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