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    Election Commission of Pakistan banned Nawaz from poll
    Tuesday, December 4, 2007 (05:55 PST)
    Election Commission of Pakistan banned Nawaz from poll

    LAHORE: A returning officer on Monday rejected the nomination papers of former premier Nawaz Sharif for the NA 120 in view of his conviction in the plane hijacking and helicopter tax evasion cases.

    The objections against the PML-N Quaid were raised by Khawaja Tahir Zia, a PML-Q candidate for NA 120, advocate Rana Aslam and journalist Shahid Orakzai. Tahir Zia in his objection stated that Nawaz was not eligible for contesting the general elections as he was awarded life term in the plane hijacking case in 2000.

    Rana Aslam raised the second objection against Nawaz Sharif that an accountability court had sentenced him to 14 years in jail besides debarring him from holding public office for 21 years in the helicopter tax evasion case. He further alleged that the PML-N leader was a defaulter of a consortium of banks.

    Orakzai in his objection to Nawaz’s eligibility for poll contest said he being the prime minister of Pakistan instigated the attack on the Supreme Court in November 1997. Under Article 63 (I) (g) of the Constitution and Section 8 (d) (2) (g) of the Conduct of General Election Order 2002, he said, Nawaz was not eligible for contesting the election and therefore his nomination papers should be rejected.

    The RO, additional district & sessions judge Raja Qamar-uz-Zaman, accepting the objections pertaining to the conviction of Nawaz Sharif in the plane hijacking and helicopter tax evasion cases, rejected his nomination papers while turning down the objections as to the attack on the Supreme Court and being defaulter of banks. Nawaz Sharif can appeal against the decision in seven days.

    Nazir Shami, the counsel for Khawaja Tahir Zia, pleaded against Nawaz on the basis of his conviction in the hijacking case. Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Haris responded, saying that the then president of Pakistan, Rafiq Tarar, pardoned Nawaz’s all convictions and once a ‘conviction’ was pardoned it could not be restored.

    Under Article 45 of the Constitution, Shami said, the president could only pardon the sentences and not the conviction. He was of the view that only an acquittal order by an appellate court could end the conviction.

    He also objected that Nawaz defaulted on the loans of the banks of which he was a director. Haris denied it saying no proof had been placed on record to show that the former prime minister was a director or had a share in these companies. He said the companies and consortium of banks had reached a new arrangement and a case had been moved in the LHC to make such arrangements operational.

    He also denied that Shahbaz Sharif’s nomination papers were rejected for being a bank defaulter. He said a full LHC bench in 2003 observed that Shahbaz was not a bank defaulter. The court admitted Haris’s viewpoint and turned down the objection in the light of the LHC full bench order.

    Orakzai who was barred from entering the Supreme Court building by the deposed chief justice, alleged that Nawaz was involved in the attack on the apex court in 1997, which was dismissed by Nawaz’s counsel as baseless. He said Orakzai was telling lies and the RO was not stopping him from uttering what he wanted to.

    Orakzai’s indecent remarks about lawyers irked all the lawyers present in courtroom. They said they would not tolerate such things anymore. At this Orakzai concluded his arguments and left the room quickly. Later the RO dismissed his objection petition.

    After the removal of Nawaz Sharif’s government in 1999 at least six cases were instituted against him and his family members. These cases included plane hijacking and helicopter case in which Nawaz had been convicted to imprisonment, fine and disqualification.

    On April 6, 2000 an anti-terrorism court of Karachi awarded him imprisonment, Rs 5 million fine besides ordering confiscation of his properties in the plane hijacking case. The court also ordered Nawaz Sharif to pay Rs 2 million as compensation to the passengers of the hijacked plane coming from Colombo to Karachi.

    In that case the court had acquitted all the co-accused including his adviser Syed Ghous Ali Shah, Ehtesab Bureau chairman Saif-ur-Rehman, former PIA chairman Shahid Khakan Abbasi, principal secretary to PM Saeed Mehdi and Sindh IG Rana Maqbool.

    In July 2000 an anti-terrorism court established in Attock jail heard the helicopter tax reference and sentenced Nawaz Sharif 14 years in jail and fined Rs 20 million.

    The court, according to the NAB Ordinance, also disqualified him for 21 years from holding any public and government office. The court acquitted Saif-ur-Rehman of the charges in that case.

    Agencies add: Nawaz Sharif said the filing of a petition in the court against the rejection of his nomination papers would be tantamount to legalizing the PCO. Talking to media-persons, after his meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gul at a hotel in Islamabad, he said he would rather negotiate the issue from the platform of the APDM.

    Denouncing the authenticity of the government’s claim about free and fair elections after rejection of his papers, he said such tactics could not shake his will and they would continue their struggle for the survival of the country, nation and democracy.

    “It is strange enough that my nomination papers were accepted in 2002, when I was in Jeddah, but today they have been rejected. I will not consult court in this regard, as it will be tantamount to accepting the PCO and Musharraf-backed courts,” he said.

    To a query, he said the Turkish President wanted political stability in Pakistan. However, Nawaz conveyed his viewpoint to the Turkish dignitary. The returning officer accepted the nomination papers of Nawaz’s opponent Khawaja Tahir Zia. Nawaz did not appear before the returning officer and instead his lawyers Khawaja Haris Ahmed and Imtiaz Kafi were present there.

    Kaifi said they were considering an appeal to a tribunal composed of senior judges. “This decision has been made under pressure. This shows how free and fair the elections will be,” said the lawyer.

    The decision has further damaged the credibility of the elections. “How can elections be free and fair in these circumstances?” said PML-N vice president Syed Zafar Ali Shah. “After eight years of military rule and with an election commission which is biased and powerless, it is no surprise that they have rejected the nomination papers of the leader of one of Pakistan’s largest parties,” he added.

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