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July 25, 2018

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SC dampener for Sheikh Rashid


LAHORE: A three-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, on Tuesday declined interim relief to Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid by turning down his plea to direct the ECP to hold today's polls in NA-60, Rawalpindi.

The bench, which observed how the people could be stopped from electing the candidate of their choice, passed the order on an appeal moved by Sheikh Rashid against the decision of the Lahore High Court (LHC) wherein the election in his constituency was deferred after the conviction of his PML-N opponent Hanif Abbasi. Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were the other members of the bench.

“Practically (there is) no possibility of election, therefore, no interim relief (could be granted),” the chief justice said while hearing the arguments of the counsels for Sheikh Rashid and one of his rival candidates.

The court, however, admitted the petition for regular hearing and issued notices to the federal government and ECP. On Monday, LHC’s Justice Mujahid Mustaqeem rejected Sheikh Rashid’s petition, challenging the ECP’s decision wherein the election in NA-60 was postponed after the disqualification of PML-N candidate Hanif Abbasi. However, Sheikh Rashid challenged the LHC decision before the Supreme Court. Pakistan Falah Party candidate Syed Rashid Gardezi was the only candidate who personally appeared before the bench and opposed the plea through his counsels Malik Ghulam Mustafa Kandwal and Sajjad Akbar Abbasi.

Sardar Abdur Razzaq, the counsel for the petitioner, argued that the elections should not be postponed. He said Abbasi’s conviction in the Ephedrine case was in accordance with the law and argued Maryam Nawaz and Safdar were convicted but the elections were not deferred in their respective constituencies.

At this, Justice Ijaz remarked that Maryam and Safdar had covering candidates but in the instant case there was no one. “Majority would be deprived of their choice,” Justice Ijaz observed.

The counsel said it was the fault of the political party which failed to nominate anyone as its covering candidate in the constituency concerned. At this, the chief justice remarked: “A major political party would be out of election process. Should we allow Abbasi to contest the election as well?”

“Can you tell us when the sentence of Abbasi was announced?” the chief justice asked Sheikh Rashid’s counsel. He responded that they did not object to the candidature of Abbasi at the time of filing of nomination papers. He said he simply requested for not postponing the election.

At this, Justice Ijaz observed that 25 per cent of the voters would have no choice. The appellant said they did not move an application in the Ephedrine case, which had been pending for last six years. Abbasi himself approached the courts for delaying the verdict which was turned down and as a result faced the conviction in accordance with the law.

“Should unopposed election be allowed?” the chief justice remarked. “He (Sheikh Rashid) is contesting from another constituency as well. Let him contest the election,” he said. Justice Bandial remarked that the election symbols were finalised and allotted weeks ago while conviction was announced a few days before the polling day. How could it be possible to print ballot papers again in such a short span of time, he questioned. “Don’t go for a walkover — go for a fight,” he remarked and added that the electoral contest would reveal everything.

Meanwhile, the chief justice questioned the appellant’s counsel that how the election could be possible on July 25 (today). The counsel replied that all the necessary election material had reached the constituency.

At this, the top judge observed that they were admitting the appeal for regular hearing to determine the facts and issued notices to the attorney general and the ECP. The next date of hearing is in office.

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