ECP let banned outfit contest 2013 polls


ISLAMABAD: Taking advantage of loopholes in the electoral system of the country, an alliance of five politico-religious parties, including a banned outfit, managed to be recognised by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and contest the general elections last year without any legal hitch or challenge. The Muttahida Deeni Mahaz, formed in Dec 2012 under the leadership of Maulana Samiul Haq, the head of his own faction of JUI, also comprised Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, an organisation banned by the government in Feb 2012.

But a document available with Dawn shows that the fact had been concealed from the ECP to allow the outlawed ASWJ chief Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi to contest polls under the alliance’s umbrella.

Instead of the ASWJ, the Pakistan Rah-i-Haq Party, led by former Vice President of ASWJ Maulana Muhammad Ibrahim Qasmi, was shown as a component of the alliance when a request was made for allotment of an election symbol. Informed sources told Dawn that Pakistan Rah-i-Haq Party was in fact the political wing of the ASWJ.

The ASWJ’s Punjab Information Secretary, Ghulam Mustafa Baloch, confirmed that the party was a component of the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz. He, however, did not reply to a question as to why the fact was concealed from the ECP when the alliance applied for the election symbol before 2013.

“I am in a meeting right now and will get back to you,” he said, but never returned a call.

The chief of ASWJ, formerly known as the Sipah-i-Sihaba Pakistan (SSP), Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, contested elections from NA-89, Jhang, but was defeated by Sheikh Akram of PML-N by around 3,000 votes. He challenged the eligibility of the winning candidate alleging that he was a loan defaulter.

On the basis of his petition, an election tribunal in Faisalabad disqualified Sheikh Akram and declared Ludhianvi as the winning candidate, a decision which surprised many legal experts who believe that the tribunal has overstepped its powers. An expert said that under Section 67 (C) of the Representation of People Act, 1976, the tribunal had powers to declare the election of the returned candidate void.

He, however, said it was not a discretionary power and applied only if some apparent error in vote count was discovered or some manipulation in the result was proved.

“In such circumstances, normally the election is declared to be void and a re-poll is ordered,” he said.

An ECP official confirmed that the ECP had received a copy of the tribunal’s order, which would soon be placed before the commission for appropriate orders. Another ECP official said that under the law, the ECP had no powers to set aside a judgment of the tribunal appointed by it. The Supreme Court was the only forum to challenge the decision.

The disqualified MNA of PML-N, Sheikh Muhammad Akram, said he would challenge the tribunal’s decision in the Supreme Court.

In the 2002 general elections, head of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) Maulana Azam Tariq contested the polls as an independent candidate from NA-89, Jhang, from jail and won the seat.

He contested against two political stalwarts, Dr Tahirul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Sheikh Waqas Akram. Maulana Tariq secured 41,425 votes while Sheikh Waqas Akram bagged 31,959 votes, followed by Dr Tahirul Qadri who clinched 31,483 votes. Maulana Azam Tariq’s vote gave majority to the PML-Q government led by Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who went to see him to muster his support.

Maulana Tariq was killed in Islamabad and Sheikh Waqas Akram won his seat in by-elections by defeating Maulana Alam Tariq, the brother of Maulana Azam Tariq.

In the 2008 general elections, the contest in NA-89, Jhang, was mainly between Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi of SSP (as an independent candidate) and Sheikh Waqas Akram of the PML-Q. Mr Akram defeated Maulana Ludhianvi by securing 51,976 votes while Maulana Ludhianvi bagged 45,216 votes.

In 2013 elections, Mr Akram was to contest polls on a ticket awarded to him by the PML-N, but he was disqualified for possessing a fake degree and the ticket was awarded to his father Sheikh Mohammad Akram, who won the polls. He has now been disqualified by the election tribunal and is set to fight a legal battle against Ludhianvi in the Supreme Court as the latter has been declared winner by the tribunal.