ISLAMABAD: In a major relief to the embattled Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Supreme Court on Friday approved the appeals of its candidates including president Parvez Elahi to contest upcoming elections slated for February 8.
Besides Elahi, the top court approved appeals of PTI candidates Umer Aslam, Major (retd) Tahir Sadiq, Sanam Javaid Khan, and Shukat Basra against returning officer decisions to reject their nomination papers from different constituencies.
Elahi has been allowed to contest the general election from the PP-32 constituency of Gujarat district.
The former Punjab chief minister had approached the Supreme Court to contest the upcoming general elections and challenged the verdict of the Lahore High Court (LHC), upholding the Election Tribunal’s decision of rejecting his nomination papers.
The PTI president, presently confined in Adiala Jail, filed a petition in the apex court under Article 185(3) of the Constitution for leave to appeal against the judgment dated January 13, 2024, passed by the LHC in his petition.
Advocate Faisal Siddiqui represented Elahi in the case.
Presenting his arguments, Elahi’s counsel highlighted anomalies in the objections raised by the rival candidates and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). “We don’t want a delay in elections,” Siddiqui told the bench. He implored the court to grant permission to his client to contest the upcoming elections in Gujarat.
Justice Minallah observed that voters should not be deprived of their right to vote. He said a returning officer is supposed to facilitate and not obstruct the election process. “It is strange that all this is happening to only one political party,” Justice Minallah remarked.
Justice Shah said elections call for inclusion of people and not exclusion.
“Article 17 says that no one can be barred from contesting election without valid reasons,” he said.
The SC judge said Constitution allows enfranchisement and not disenfranchising the voters via elections. After hearing the arguments, the apex court declared the RO’s decision to reject Elahi’s nomination papers from PP-32 invalid and allowed him to contest polls from the Gujarat provincial assembly seat.
Elahi withdrew appeals against the rejection of nomination papers from other constituencies including two NA seats.
A series of objections were raised against Elahi’s nomination papers, which included the concealing of assets, non-disclosure of shares in different companies, non-compliance with the rule to open separate bank accounts for expenditures in both constituencies, technical mistakes in documents and submitting documents without verification from the oath commission.
The senior PTI leader was initially arrested on June 1 last year in a Rs70 million graft case related to the embezzlement of development funds allocated for the Gujrat district, and has been behind bars ever since.
He was released several times in between, only to be re-arrested immediately in different cases, including a money laundering case and allegations of illegal appointments in the Punjab Assembly.
Apart from Elahi, PTI candidates Tahir Sadiq and Omer Aslam Awan were allowed by the apex court to contest elections from NA- 49 (Attock) and NA-87 (Khushab) constituencies, respectively.
Sanam has been allowed to contest polls from NA-119, NA-120, and PP-125 while Basra was cleared to fight elections from NA-163 (Bahawalnagar).