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ECP delays decision on new box option; secretary says he is not aware of such a move
- Saturday, April 06, 2013 - From Print Edition


ISLAMABAD: Former president Pervez Musharraf was barred on Friday from contesting the polls in one constituency as his nomination papers were rejected by the returning officer of Kasur for his alleged involvement in the Lal Masjid operation, murders of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.


While the Returning Officer of NA-120, Lahore, has rejected the objections raised against Nawaz Sharif by his rival candidate and accepted his nomination papers allowing him to contest the election.


The objection was raised before the returning officer that Nawaz Sharif was the person in the aircraft hijacking case, thus he did not qualify to contest the elections.


Pervez Musharraf returned last month after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to contest the May 11 general elections despite the possibility of arrest on various charges and death threats from the Taliban. He could also face disqualification in three other constituencies where he plans to run. The officials, who declined to be identified, also said the decision was based on articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Moreover, he had not declared all of his assets.


“Musharraf has been disqualified under articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution among other reasons,” an election commission official said.Neither Musharraf nor a spokesman for him was available for comments.


Meanwhile, to the surprise of many, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday decided to defer the inclusion of ‘None of the Above’ box in the ballot papers owing to legal complications.


In an informal chat with a group of journalists here, a senior ECP official revealed that the decision not to include the column in the ballot papers for the upcoming general elections was made but it was time bound.


“We have consultations with legal experts, who pointed out certain legal hitches. That is why the move is deferred. However, the new option for voters has not been set aside permanently,” he maintained.


However, when the same question was put to the ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan separately, he expressed his ignorance that the inclusion of a new box was deferred. The commission announced on Wednesday that the voters would get an option to reject all the candidates for which a summary would be forwarded to the prime minister for signatures of the president.


Under the move, a box was to be added at the end of election symbols on ballot papers to allowing the voters to reject all the candidates and they could affix the stamp on the box with ‘None of the Above’ option.


The ECP secretary said the District Returning Officers (DROs) and Returning Officers (ROs) were free to accept or reject the nomination papers, as no institution including the ECP could interfere in this process.


Talking to media persons here at the Election Commission Secretariat, he made it clear that the electoral body could not issue directions to the returning officers.


The secretary reminded the journalists that the decision to have returning officers from the judiciary was taken already and the stakeholders were also desirous of having judicial officers as returning officers.


Ishtiak recalled that in this context, the ECP had a meeting with the political parties in September last year. He pointed out that under the law, it was their job to have scrutiny of nomination papers and accept or reject them.


The ECP secretary said that the commission had already issued a press release in this connection. In reply to a question about the returning officers asking queries about Islamic fundamentals from the candidates, he said that under Article 62, the candidates should have knowledge about Islamic basics.


However, when asked for his comment on some media reports that returning officers inquired candidates about their wives, he said that this was not in Article 62. But maintained he would not make further comments on this matter.Meanwhile, the ECP received a record 23,400 nomination papers while over 17,000 of these had been processed and sent back to the respective returning officers.