By-election NA-48: Anjum Aqeel gets approval from ECP

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Aug 13, 2013.

Islamabad – Candidates running for the August 22 National Assembly by-elections from NA-48 will now get a say in deciding the fate of Anjum Aqeel Khan’s attempts to restore his candidacy for the elections.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has summoned all 22 candidates contesting the capital’s NA-48 constituency to appear before the commission on Tuesday regarding the hearing of Khan’s case.

Khan, who was elected Member National Assembly (MNA) from NA-48 in 2008, ran for the 2013 general elections from the same seat on a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) but lost.

On Monday, two members of the Commission, Justice Shahzad Akbar from Khyber-Pakthunkhwa and Justice Fazlur Rehman from Balochistan, heard the case, in which Khan has claimed that his nomination papers were withdrawn on July 29 without his consent.

The members adjourned the hearing till Tuesday and directed all other candidates to be present at the hearing.

ECP Spokesperson Khurshid Alam said the other candidates have been summoned because they are a party to the by-elections.

“If, for example, the date of the elections is extended because of Anjum Aqeel Khan, the other candidates will be affected,” Alam said. “So the commission wants to give them a chance to be heard, as is the case with court proceedings.”

The PML-N was expected to award the NA-48 ticket to former Rawalpindi Member National Assembly (MNA) Hanif Abbasi. But a day before the July 30 deadline to withdraw nomination papers, the party decided against Abbasi because of resistance within the party against his candidacy.

By that time, Khan’s nomination papers had also been withdrawn allegedly by Khan’s legal counsel without his consent. PML-N’s official ticket then went to advocate Ashraf Gujjar, who is believed to be affected the most if the ECP restores Khan’s candidacy.

Gujjar, who has been allotted the PML-N election symbol, has maintained that the party has given him the go-ahead to contest the elections and that Khan will have to contest as an independent candidate even if he gets the ECP verdict in his favour.

Khan filed a complaint with the ECP to restore him as the PML-N’s official candidate for NA-48 after a Returning Officer (RO) rejected his application on July 30 for cancelling the nomination papers withdrawal.

The RO has said that the legal counsel was a responsible person and would not take any step without consulting Khan first.

Khan, who was embroiled in a land scam during his term as NA-48 MNA, said he was confident he will get justice from the ECP. But he said he would not pursue the candidacy if the party leadership tells him to stop.

“The party leadership has not told me anything about Gujjar’s candidacy,” he said. “I’ll go ahead if the party wants me to, but if the party directs me to stop pursuing the case tomorrow, I will obey.”

PML-N Spokesman Senator Pervez Rasheed was not available for comment.

Javed Hashmi of the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) had defeated Khan by a margin of around 21,000 votes in the May 11 elections. The PTI has fielded Asad Umar as its candidate for the by-elections and with the Jamaat-e Islami withdrawing its candidate, Mian Aslam, the contest appears to be tilted in PTI’s favour.

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