ECP suspends hearing of references against Prime Minister

Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) suspended the disqualification reference against the Prime Minister until the Supreme Court decides the matter while it issued notices to Imran Khan and Jehangir Tarin on the disqualification references filed against them by Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to appear in person on 16 November.

A full bench of the ECP, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan took up the petitions. In his ruling, Chief Election Commissioner said that this case is currently being heard in the Supreme Court therefore, the Commission should wait for a decision by the apex court before proceeding with it.

The decision was taken on a plea submitted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Salman Aslam Butt to suspend hearing on the references since the case is already being heard in the Supreme Court.

He cited past precedence when the Supreme Court had heard cases against Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif’s disqualifications and noted that a high court had also pended the hearing against Nawaz Shairf’s disqualification till a decision by the apex court.

Earlier, the CEC who was presiding over a five-member commission to hear the disqualification references against the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, Jehangir Tareen and Captain Safdar Mehmood, asked all parties their views on whether they should wait for the verdict of the apex court in the disqualification of the Prime Minister.

Lawyers of the opposition parties opposed the respondent counsel’s plea, contending that the commission should continue hearing the references as it is an autonomous body.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawyer, Latif Khosa said that his client was not party in the Supreme Court case against Prime Minister’s disqualification therefore the case in the ECP should not be affected by the apex court hearing. “The Panama Leaks is a national issue and ECP is an independent constitutional forum,” he added.

Hamid Khan endorsed Latif Khosa’s arguments with the ECP bench. He said that ECP is allowed to hold a hearing as Supreme Court of Pakistan did not give a stay or pass any judgement in the case.

The ECP panel, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan, first heard Speaker Ayaz Sadiq’s reference against Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen. “The ball is in our court now,” the CEC commented during the hearing on the disqualification of the PTI leaders. A separate hearing for the disqualification of Captain Safdar Mehmood (retd) has been adjourned till 16 November.

Four political parties, PTI, PPP, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Awami Muslim League (AML) submitted separate references against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Captain (Retd) Safdar and Hamza Shahbaz. Two individuals – Malik Khalil and M. Bilal – had also submitted references against PTI leader Jahangir Tareen and Shahnawaz Dhalon had filed a reference against PTI chief Imran Khan.

-Business Recorder