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March 8, 2012

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Waheeda Shah disqualification: a unique case

Waheeda Shah disqualification: a unique case
LAHORE: Of the very few female legislators or election candidates disqualified by the Election Commissions and courts around the world in recent history, an over-whelming majority continues to hail from Pakistan.
Research shows that the most latest disqualification of the PPP candidate Waheeda Shah, found guilty of torturing a female Presiding Officer Habiba Memon and others during the polling of the Tando Muhammad Khan (PS-53) by-elections on February 25 last, is a unique case in its own right as no woman contestant anywhere in the world has ever been found culpable of committing an offence such as this, which is normally associated with men.
During the recent years, Pakistan has seen legislators like Nagma Mushtaq from PP-206 (Jalalpur Pirwala, Multan), Raheela Khadim Hussain, Saima Mohyuddin, Mehmooda Sahi, Farah Deeba and Shagufta Sheikh etc facing the wrath of country’s courts or Election Commission, after they were found guilty of possessing and submitting fake educational testimonials to the authorities concerned.
Meanwhile, former Punjab Assembly law-makers like Shumaila Rana also had to go home on charges of moral turpitude, or as many put it, they were ‘shown the door’ by their own party leaders to hush up matters that had the potential of earning sheer disgrace for them had the local Press dragged them a bit longer.
A quick look around the world shows that in India, a female Uttar Pradesh politician, Umlesh Yadav, was disqualified by the Indian Election Commission in October 2011 for three years.
She was actually punished for submitting an incorrect statement of election expenditure incurred on ‘news items’ appearing in two Hindi dailies.
(Reference: The Times of India October 21, 2011 edition)
The decision to disqualify Umlesh Yadav, an MLA belonging to Rashtriya Parivartan Dal, was taken after an inquiry was undertaken on a complaint filed by losing candidate Yogendra Kumar.
The Indian Election Commission was of the opinion that MP Umlesh Yadav did not maintain a correct account of her election expenditure under section 77 (of the Representation of the People Act) in connection with her election to UP Assembly from Bisauli in April 2007.
The election authorities across the border had held that she (Umlesh Yadav) was found guilty of filing an incorrect account of her election expenses with the district election officer had persistently denied filing a false account and defended her action.
The Commission was reported saying, “To some people, our view that the suppression of the expenditure of Rs21,250 by Umlesh Yadav in her account of election expense and her failure under law might appear too harsh.”
In Afghanistan, a female MP Semin Barakzai was disqualified last year, after she was found out to be the figurehead in a messy political dispute over corruption and vote fraud.
(References: Various newspapers including The New York Times and The Australian) Legislator Semin was among the nine MPs expelled in a compromise deal struck by the Hamid Karzai government after fraud monitors had discarded 1.3 million votes from last year’s poll and disqualified an original 19 winning candidates.
Semin Barekzai, a 32-year-old mother of three, had stopped eating in October 2011 and had opted to move into a tent outside the Afghan parliament at the start of October, in a bid to be reinstated as a lawmaker.
She had won her seat in September 2011, but the Afghan Election Commission had ruled that she and eight other lawmakers should be replaced because other candidates had actually received more votes.
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