Pak Supreme Court gives relief to senior PTI leaders ahead of 8 Feb polls
The SC also allows other PTI leaders, Umar Aslam, Tahir Sadiq, Sanam Javed, and Shaukat Basra to contest the upcoming general elections
In a relief to the jailed former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan's beleaguered party, the Supreme Court has allowed its president Parvez Elahi and some other senior leaders to contest the 8 February general elections.
A three-member bench headed by justice Mansoor Ali Shah and comprising justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and justice Athar Minallah on Friday, 26 January, heard Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party president Elahi's appeal against the rejection of his candidature by the Lahore High Court and the election tribunal.
The apex court also allowed other PTI leaders, Umar Aslam, Tahir Sadiq, Sanam Javed, and Shaukat Basra to contest the upcoming general elections.
The beleaguered Khan and his PTI have suffered blow after blow ahead of the polls with the election commission snatching away its iconic cricket bat symbol and rejecting nomination papers of 71-year-old Khan and several top leaders on multiple grounds.
The panel, after hearing the arguments, declared the decision to reject Elahi's nomination papers null and void and allowed him to contest the elections from a constituency of the Punjab assembly in his home province (PP-32).
The court also directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to allot Elahi an election symbol and have it included in the ballot papers.
Elahi, a former two-time chief minister of Punjab, had filed his candidature for the general elections but the same was rejected by the returning officers. He challenged it in the election tribunal, which rejected his plea.
Later, he filed a petition against it in the LHC, which too rejected his plea, prompting him to approach the Supreme Court.
Earlier, he filed two separate petitions in the Supreme Court on Wednesday against the rejection of his candidacy for the NA-64, a national assembly seat, and the PP-32.
However, he later on withdrew his plea to contest the seat of national assembly, his lawyer Faisal Siddique told the media. "We decided to contest [the elections] on only one seat owing to less time at hand," he said.
During the hearing, Justice Minallah highlighted that it was the court's responsibility to interpret the Election Act in a way that did not deprive the people of choosing a representative of their choice.
In his arguments, Siddique told the court that he had not yet received the complete order from the (Returning Officer) RO which rejected Elahi's nomination papers. He said that Elahi's papers were rejected on the basis that he failed to open separate bank accounts for campaigning in different constituencies.
"Elahi is contesting from five constituencies," he said. At this, Justice Minallah asked where the law said that separate accounts were required for the different constituencies.
"If there is an overspending during campaigning, the accounts are scrutinised after the polls are conducted," Siddique said.
"Another objection raised in the plea is that my client hid the ownership of a 10-marla property in Punjab," he added.
"My client never purchased this plot. He was in jail at that time," he contended, adding that the purchasing date was from when Elahi was in jail.
Justice Mandokhail asserted that the reason behind asking about a person's assets was to compare what he owned before and after coming into power.
"It is fine if you are rejecting the ownership of the plot," the judge said.
Justice Mandokhail remarked that Elahi was a lucky man as new properties in his name had surfaced. "You should give these additional properties for charity purposes," he quipped.
At one point, justice Minallah remarked that it seemed as if the caretaker government was involved in getting Elahi's nomination papers rejected. He said the RO's job was to facilitate election candidates instead of burdening them.
"Unfortunately all this is happening with only one political party," Justice Minallah said.
After hearing the arguments, the court declared the decision to reject Elahi's nomination papers null and void and allowed him to contest the elections from PP-32.
Meanwhile, the bench hearing separate pleas of Tahir and Alam allowed them to contest elections for the National Assembly.
While another bench of the apex court, comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, allowed Basra and Sanam to contest the polls.