By Wajih Ahmad Sheikh
LAHORE: A full bench of the Lahore High Court on Tuesday released its nine-page detailed judgment wherein former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been disqualified from contesting by-polls, scheduled for June 26.
The bench, accepting a petition of Noor Elahi, an independent candidate from the NA-123, Lahore, held that Nawaz Sharif had been convicted by an accountability court on July 22, 2000, and was also disqualified for 21 years for seeking or for being elected or chosen, appointed or nominated as member or representative of any public office or any statutory or local authority of the government of Pakistan.
The bench also observed the returning officer for the NA-123, turning down the petitioner’s objection that Nawaz Sharif was a convict, had held that no documentary evidence or supporting material was produced about the conviction of Nawaz Sharif. The bench ruled the finding of the returning officer was not correct. “An order of a returning officer who held Nawaz Sharif disqualified on December 3, 2007, for the general election was also on record,” it added.
The bench, accepting the other allegation of the petitioner, also held that Nawaz Sharif had scandalized, abused, disobeyed and ridiculed the judiciary of Pakistan. “He also filed a fake affidavit with nomination papers. According to the affidavit, Nawaz Sharif claimed he was not disqualified from contesting the election,” it observed.
The LHC bench said when it was dictating its order on the petition of Noor Elahi, the High Court office had placed many applications before it, asking to review the order of dismissing the appeals moved by the Punjab government, the Punjab assembly speaker and many others, through which the applicants wanted to become a party in the hearing of the petition against Nawaz.
It added, “We have minutely examined the applications and come to the conclusion that they have been moved only with a view to delaying the proceeding. We find no merit in the petitions, as no apparent error on the face of the record is identified.”
The background of the case is that Nawaz Sharif filed his nomination papers for the general elections, held on February 18, 2008, but the returning officer rejected his papers on December 3, 2007, as Nawaz was convicted and sentenced by an accountability court. Nawaz Sharif did not file an appeal against the order and instead filed an application before the chief election commissioner, challenging the order of the returning officer, but the chief election commissioner rejected his application on December 17, 2007.
Then Nawaz filed nomination papers for by-polls, but this time the returning officer accepted his papers. The petitioner, Noor Elahi, raised objections before the returning officer against the acceptance of Nawaz Sharif’s nomination papers, but he dismissed them and allowed Nawaz to run for bye-elections.
Noor Elahi filed an appeal before an election tribunal, consisting of Justice Muhammad Akram Qureshi and Justice Hafiz Tariq Nasim, against the order of the returning officer. The tribunal referred the matter to the chief election commissioner on May 31, as it had a split verdict.
May 31 was notified as the last date for deciding appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers. Justice Muhammad Akram Qureshi accepted the appeal, but Justice Hafiz Tariq Nasim rejected it.
As the tribunal had a split decision, the matter was referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan. The commission relied on section 14 (6) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976, which says, “An appeal not disposed of within the period specified in the election schedule shall be deemed to have been rejected,” and allowed Nawaz to contest the election.
Against the order of the returning officer and the chief election commissioner, Noor Elahi filed a petition. He mainly raised two points that Nawaz was not eligible for contesting the election as he was a convict and that he was continuously committing contempt of court by making statements against the judiciary of Pakistan.
Earlier, a full bench of the LHC, comprising Justice Fazal-e-Miran Chauhan, Justice Hasnat Ahmad Khan and Justice Ahsan Bhoon, issued notices to Nawaz, but he did not appear personally or through counsel and the bench ordered ex-parte proceedings against him. The bench heard detailed arguments when an objection was raised against its constitution.
On objection, Justice Hasnat Ahmad Khan refused to hear the case and the chief justice constituted another bench, comprising Justice Abdul Shakoor Parracha, Justice M Bilal Khan and Justice Syed Shabbar Raza Rizvi.
It also heard arguments of the petitioner counsel, Dr Qazi Mohyiudin, and the deputy attorney general and decided the matter. The bench accepted the contentions raised by the petitioner one by one.
Source: The News, 25/6/2008