Legal eagles raise serious questions over ECP verdict

ISLAMABAD: Legal eagles have raised serious questions over the verdict announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), declaring it a verdict issued in a haste and which could not stand the test in any court of law due to its legal lacunae.

Barrister Ali Zafar said that he had been trying to get the order from the ECP and he was given an incomplete order as one member did not sign the verdict.

“I needed a copy of the order so as to submit an appeal against the ECP order but was informed that it was an incomplete order as one member did not sign it. Now this is incomprehensible matter that while one member did not sign the order, then this order is illegal. ECP could not release an order until all members don’t sign it. Until and unless all members don’t sign it, it can’t be called an order of the Election Commission of Pakistan,” he said.

He said that two pages had been put on the website of the ECP but rest of the pages were yet to be online and were not available.

Eminent lawyer Salman Akram Raja said that Article 63(1)P provides that if any lawmaker is disqualified under any other law, the same would be disqualified under 63(1)P.

“This means that the Article 63(1)P itself doesn’t disqualify any lawmaker and rather any disqualified lawmaker is disqualified for a specific period of time by the ECP under the Article 63(1)P,” he said.

“Now if you see this verdict, the ECP has used Section 137 of the Election Act 2017. But Section 137 says that if anyone submits wrong information in the declaration, criminal proceedings can be initiated against the person within 120 days of the submission of the document,” said Mr Raja.

However, Salma Akram Raja said that in this case, the final declaration should have been submitted by December 31, 2021, thereby meaning that any criminal proceeding against Imran Khan could have been initiated by April 30, 2022 which the government failed to do.

“Now I fail to comprehend how the ECP has asked to proceed against Imran Khan while referring Section 137 of the Election Act as anyone can be held accountable for providing wrong information within 120 days of filing of the declaration and it would tantamount to corrupt practice and he could be punished for jail term upto three years. But this 120 days’ limit has already been lapsed,” he said.

Raja said that first criminal proceedings have to be initiated and then one needs to be convicted and this punishment must be minimum two years and only then the accused could be disqualified under Article 63(1)P. Hence, this disqualification can’t hold for long and the court may strike it down being a weak decision.

Asked whether PTI’s claim that the money got from selling the Toshakhana gifts had been taxed and it had been reflected in the bank accounts could be justified, Salman Akram Raja said that claim was justified.

“Look the law provides that one has to reflect the assets under your name by June 30th in the statement to be submitted by December 31. So if anyone buys an asset and sells it before June 30 and the amount acquired against it is reflected in the bank account and then it is also listed the declaration, then it is lawful act. No one can say that the asset has been kept hidden. There is no difference between a watch or its amount. It is even better to reflect amount rather than the asset in the declaration. So no case can be initiated against Imran Khan,” he asserted.

Mian Abrar
Mian Abrar
The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He tweets as @mian_abrar and also can be reached at [email protected]

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