June 24, 2008

Nawaz barred from by-poll: LHC allows Shahbaz to remain in office

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 2:32 pm
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JUNE 24, 2008

June 24, 2008 Tuesday Jamadi-us-Sani 19, 1429

By Syed Faisal Shakeel
 LAHORE, June 23: The Lahore High Court on Monday disqualified Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif from contesting the June 26 by-election.

A full bench of the court also declared that an election petition against the candidature of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would remain pending, but he would continue to serve as the provincial chief executive until an election tribunal decided about his nomination.

The bench, comprising Justice Abdul Shakoor Paracha, Justice M. Bilal Khan and Justice Syed Shabbar Raza Rizvi, was constituted on Saturday after two members of an earlier bench had refused to hear the petitions.

The Sharif brothers have faced legal challenges to their nomination. On May 5, an election tribunal comprising two LHC judges had handed down a split verdict on the objections raised against them. Following the tribunal’s decision, the Election Commission had allowed them to remain in the run.

But Syed Khurram Shah, a voter, and Noor Elahi, an independent candidate against Nawaz Sharif for National Assembly seat NA-123 had moved the High Court against the commission’s decision to permit the PML-N leaders to contest the by-election on technical grounds without deciding about the legal status of their nomination.The Sharif brothers did not contest the case on the ground that they did not accept the ‘PCO judges’.

The high court was proceeding ex parte against them after turning down applications by several of their supporters, including lawyers and the speaker of the provincial assembly, to become a party to the case.

Still, several lawyers, including Akram Shaiekh, Ashtar Ausaf Ali, A.K. Dogar and Khwaja Haris defended them on behalf of the Punjab Assembly speaker, the provincial government and the Pakistan Lawyers’ Forum.

Independent candidate Noor Elahi contended through advocate Qazi Mohiuddin that Nawaz Sharif was a “convict, a dishonest person and a defaulter”.

He said PML-N’s argument that the presidential pardon under Article 45 of the Constitution had removed all charges against Mr Sharif could not be taken into consideration because the president could end a punishment, but not a conviction under a court order.

Advocate Raza Kazim, representing Khurram Shah, said the Election Commission had not allowed the process of scrutiny of Shahbaz Sharif’s nomination papers by deeming the split verdict of the election tribunal as final.

“The chief election commissioner has the power to increase the number of judges in the tribunal as well as the time limit for holding the election.

He could have inducted another judge into the tribunal and changed the election schedule to allow the complete scrutiny of the papers to go through,” he argued. Advocate Akram Sheikh argued that Mr Shah had no legal power to challenge Shahbaz Sharif because he was not a candidate. “Shabaz’s election has already taken place after the Election Commission has declared him successful for being opposed by no other candidate,” he argued.

Mr Sheikh also had an altercation with Justice Bilal when the bench sought his views on Mr Kazim’s argument. “If you shout, I would shout too,” he said after the judge told him to stick to the point and not indulge in self-praise.

Advocate Ashtar Ausaf Ali said the court had sent the case against Shahbaz Sharif to a tribunal that did not exist.

The Sharif brothers and their supporting lawyers said they would not challenge the decision in any court, but Mr Ali said a decision in this regard would be taken in a party meeting.

The PML-N Lawyers’ Forum held a demonstration on the court premises and criticised the PCO judges for handing down an adverse verdict against their leader.

The Punjab Assembly adjourned its proceedings till Tuesday as soon as news about the court decision broke out.

PML-N legislators held a demonstration outside the assembly building and alleged thatthe decision was politically motivated.


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