ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday decided to initiate legal proceedings against 12 legislators, including Interior Minister Senator Rehman Malik, for making false declarations at the time of filing their nomination papers despite having dual nationalities.
False declarations by legislators have been declared “corrupt practice” under Section 78 of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 read with sections 82 and sections 193, 196, 197, 198 and 199 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The cases of these lawmakers will now be sent to the provincial election commissions concerned for referral to relevant sessions courts.
Election Commission Member (ECM), Muhammad Roshan Essani, meanwhile, strongly opposed action against Rehman Malik.
During the day-long meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhurddin G Ebrahim, the commission also decided to go ahead and obtain fresh nationality declarations from all legislators to ascertain that they were only Pakistani citizens and had no other passport.
According to the ECP secretary, if sentenced, the legislators who falsely declared their nationalities would be disqualified from contesting elections for five years and could be sentenced to three years imprisonment or a fine of Rs5,000 or both.
At the meeting, Essani reportedly contended that he had not been able to fully study the
Supreme Court’s last week order in the dual nationality case and hence requested that the matter regarding Rehman Malik be kept pending till Tuesday. However, the Election Commission insisted he could take an extra hour or two to study the order but the matter could not be delayed till the next day.
“We shall wait for a decision by the Senate chairman regarding the matter pertaining to the interior minister for 30 days. If the Senate chairman fails to make a decision within 30 days, the Election Commission will itself take a decision on Malik’s fate,” sources privy to the meeting told The News.
Later, talking to media persons, ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan made it clear that the interior minister had not been barred from discharging his official duties because the apex court had not called for his disqualification. The case of Rehman Malik was referred to the Senate chairman, he reiterated.
It may be recalled that it was Roshan Essani who wrote a dissenting note in the Waheeda Shah slapping case, along with then chief election commissioner Hamid Ali Mirza, and opposed her disqualification (as per a judgment by the Election Commission). Like Mirza, the incumbent chief election commissioner also hails from Sindh.
To a query, the secretary said if sentenced, the legislators who falsely declared their nationalities would be disqualified from contesting elections for five years and could be sentenced to three years imprisonment or a fine of Rs5,000 or both.
The secretary maintained that anyone with information regarding the dual nationality of lawmakers should come forward to share it with the Election Commission, adding that the electoral body was determined to ensure strict implementation of the Constitution and the apex court order. He noted that the disqualified lawmakers had misled the Election Commission about their dual nationality at the time of filing of their nomination papers.
The meeting also included detailed discussions on matters pertaining to the general elections. It noted that extensive efforts had been rendered to obtain information on dual nationality-holding lawmakers for over two years.
The secretary noted that since last year, the possibility of candidates with dual or more nationalities making their way to the legislatures had been foreclosed. The Election Commission decided to hold by-elections to fill in the 11 seats of the National Assembly, the Punjab and Sindh assemblies after the de-notification of dual nationality holders.
Legal proceedings, as per the ECP’s announcement, are to be started against Senator Rehman Malik, MNAs Zahid Iqbal, Farah Naz Ispahani, Farhat Muhammad Khan, Muhammad Jamil Malik, Muhammad Akhlaq, MPAs Dr Muhammad Ashraf, Waseem Qadir, Nadeem Khadim, Amna Buttar, Nadia Gabol and Dr Ahmad Ali Shah on account of filing false declarations.
The ECP has also asked for the incorporation of new CNIC holders in the electoral rolls for 2012 and sought the cooperation of the people and political parties in the registration of CNIC holders as voters.
The Election Commission has also recently proposed an amendment in the form meant for filing of annual statement of assets and liabilities by parliamentarians and members of provincial assemblies. The proposal is awaiting presidential approval.