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Judgment reserved on Jhang poll dispute

Judgment reserved on Jhang poll dispute

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court reserved on Tuesday its ruling on an election dispute between the head of the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and his opponent Sheikh Mohammad Akram – a PML-N ticket holder – who contested May 11, 2013 polls on the National Assembly seat NA-89 (Jhang).

“The judgment is reserved,” announced Justice Mian Saqib Nisar who was heading a three-judge bench that conducted an extensive hearing. On Tuesday, both Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi and his opponent’s son Sheikh Waqqas Akram, were present in court along with their supporters. Ludhianvi was represented by senior counsel Tariq Mehmood, while Makhdoom Ali Khan was the counsel for Mr Akram.

The ruling was reserved on a petition instituted by Sheikh Mohammad Akram after he was unseated by an election tribunal on April 9, 2014, which had declared Ludhianvi the returned candidate from the constituency.

But on April 22, the Supreme Court suspended the verdict as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) April 18 notification, declaring Ludhianvi the successful candidate.

Mr Akram had contested the election and won the NA-89 seat in place of his son, Sheikh Waqas Akram, who had been mired in legal proceedings related to a fake degree charge.

The Jhang constituency has always considered a hotbed of sectarian strife. It was won by the founder of the now-outlawed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, in the 1988 general elections.In 2002, Maulana Azam Tariq – who was the head of the SSP at the time – won the elections on an independent ticket while in prison, defeating Dr Tahirul Qadri and Sheikh Waqas – who was contesting from the platform of the National Alliance.

Maulana Azam Tariq was later killed in Islamabad and Sheikh Waqas was able to win the seat in the subsequent by-election by defeating the slain SSP leader’s brother, Maulana Alam Tariq.

In the 2008 general elections, NA-89 was contested between Mr Ludhianvi as an independent candidate and Sheikh Waqas on a PML-Q ticket. This time, Mr Akram defeated Ludhianvi, securing, 51,976 votes against Ludhianvi’s 45,216.

In the 2013 elections, the petition argued that the tribunal had disqualified Sheikh Akram on two grounds: that the CNIC number of his seconder was incorrect, and that the candidate did not disclose that a criminal case had been pending against him.

These grounds, the petition argued, were based on a misreading of the record and relevant legal provisions as there was no violation of any election rules to justify the tribunal’s decision to unseat Sheikh Akram.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2015

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