Poll panel split on Sharifs’ elegibility to contest by-polls

May 31st, 2008 - 8:12 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Muhammad Najeeb
Lahore, May 31 (IANS) A two-member Election Tribunal Saturday delivered a split verdict on former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif’s eligibility to contest the June 26 parliamentary by-elections and referred the matter to the chief election commissioner (CEC). Tribunal member Akram Qureshi ruled the Sharif brothers’ nomination papers were wrongfully accepted. He declared them ineligible to contest the elections.

The other tribunal member, Hafiz Tariq Naseem, said the nominations were valid and declared the Sharifs eligible to contest the polls.

The nomination papers of the Sharifs, filed in the name of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), were challenged before the Election Tribunal by their opponents.

While Sharif’s lawyer said the split decision means the brothers can contest the elections, sources in the Election Commission said law experts would be consulted before taking any further steps.

“The CEC can constitute tribunals to hear election-related cases but has no powers to take decisions,” lawyer Ashtar Ausaf told IANS.

The tribunal can neither send the matter back to the CEC nor can the CEC reverse it verdict, he added.

“A split decision means the Sharifs can contest the elections,” Ausaf maintained, adding there was a precedence in such cases of candidates being allowed to contest.

Another lawyer, Hameed Rasool, said a clear decision was necessary for the Sharifs to contest the polls.

The PML-N is a member of Pakistan’s ruling coalition that came to power after the February elections, but the two brothers are yet to be elected to the National Assembly.

The petitioners had said that Nawaz Sharif stood disqualified for life from contesting elections for a number of reasons.

“He did not make an appeal after the rejection of his nomination papers in the Feb 18 election, besides defaulting on loans of several banks,” the petitioners’ lawyer Qazi Mohiuddin said.

Sharif was sentenced to life imprisonment and disqualified by a court established to hear terrorism-related cases after his government was sacked by President Pervez Musharraf in October 1999.

He was charged with hijacking a state-owned Pakistan International Airlines plane in which Musharraf and others were returning to Pakistan from Sri Lanka.

However, a year later he was sent into forced exile in Saudi Arabia. The petitioners’ lawyer maintained the disqualification clause had not been revoked by any court.

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