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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

LHC allows an ‘indicted’ Ishaq Dar to contest in the Senate elections

News Desk |

Politicians have accused Pakistan’s legal system of having two standards one for the PML-N and another for other parties.The Lahore High Court (LHC) granted former finance Minister Ishaq Dar the right to contest the Senate elections on Saturday, after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rejected his nomination papers. Dar challenged the ECP’s rejection on Friday, claiming that he had fulfilled the criteria for the nomination papers. ECP had rejected his nomination papers because of a pending corruption reference against him in the accountability court.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had challenged the nomination papers of three PML-N candidates: Prime Minister’s sister Saadia Abbasi, Nuzhat Siddiqui and Ishaq Dar in the ECP. Senior PTI leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed challenged the nomination papers of Dar, stating that he was a proclaimed offender in the court in the on-going case of money laundering and having assets beyond known sources of income against him. An ECP Returning Officer rejected Dar’s nomination based on the said arguments.

Read more: Has Sharif family abandoned Ishaq Dar?

LHC judge Aminud Din Khan, headed the tribunal hearing Dar’s petition. Dar’s counsel, Advocate Salman Aslam Butt argued that all legalities and formalities were fulfilled by his petitioner. He argued that there are no laws that bar the indicted and proclaimed offender finance minister from contesting in the upcoming Senate elections. After hearing arguments from both sides, the LHC allowed PML-N’s candidate Ishaq Dar to contest in the upcoming Senate elections.

A graft case was filed against Ishaq Dar after the 28th July 2017 verdict by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan that disqualified the PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. The case against Ishaq Dar is under process in an accountability court. 26 out of total 28 NAB witnesses have already recorded their statements against Dar. The proceedings have so far revealed that Dar’s assets grew exponentially in the past 20 years.

Ishaq Dar left Pakistan on 27th October in the prime minister’s airplane to attend the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. He then went for an Ummrah to Saudi Arabia on 28th October. There, he met the former PM Nawaz Sharif and then went to the UK with him.

Read more: Six more witnesses record statement against Dar in graft case

Dar stated that he was not well because of a heart disease and he had to go to the UK for immediate medical treatment. From there he sent an application for indefinite leave to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi which was approved on 22nd November 2017. Technically, Dar is still the finance minister of Pakistan and Miftah Ismail is only the de facto finance minister but Dar has to report back in Pakistan before 21st February to remain the finance minister according to the law.

Legal experts have declared the LHC decision a mockery of justice since Dar should have been disqualified for a number of reasons. Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution determine the eligibility and ineligibility of a candidate to contest in parliamentary elections. Article 62(1)(f) demands a person to be ‘Sadiq and ameen’ to contest in elections. Dar was declared a proclaimed offender by the accountability court on 14th December after the Court rejected his medical documents to be inconsistent and misleading.

Politicians have accused Pakistan’s legal system of having two standards one for the PML-N and another for other parties.

Dar had challenged the accountability court’s decision to declare him a proclaimed offender in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) which bought him extra time to appear for the proceedings, but he did not appear and on 18th January, the IHC resumed ex-parte proceedings against Dar in the accountability court. Dar’s counsel had argued that he cannot travel, however, his medical report stated no such thing. He also violated the law by filing a petition in the IHC, since an absconder and a proclaimed offender cannot file a petition until he surrenders himself before the court.

According to legal experts, the whole episode proves that Dar is no more ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ since he cheated the courts with the excuse of his health. Ishaq Dar is a close aide of the PML-N Nawaz Sharif and media analysts believe that Dar was facilitated by the PML-N led government to escape from the country. When National Accountability Bureau (NAB) requested the interior ministry to place the name of Dar on Exit Control List (ECL), the ministry asked them to provide reasons for doing so. By the time NAB responded the finance minister had left the country.

Read more: Ishaq Dar among PML-N nominees for Senate elections

The request was made after the accountability court had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Dar on 14th November. The interior minister later refused on the grounds that Dar was already out of the country. In a similar case, the name of senior PPP leader Sharjeel Memon was placed on the ECL even though he was out of the country at the time. Khursheed Shah, head of the opposition in parliament has recently protested in a press briefing over this discriminatory behavior of the government.

The Supreme Court in December rejected reopening the Hudabiya Paper Mills case in which Dar was an approver witness and had recorded his confessional testimony to NAB in 2000. He had later rejected his statement, stating that it was taken from him under duress. The SC rejected the reopening of the case on the grounds that the deadline had expired. The case would have landed Dar in certain trouble since either he would have to testify against the Sharif family or be convicted himself.

Many media analysts and opposition parties reason that all these arguments lead to one inescapable conclusion that legal loopholes and technicalities have always worked in PML-N and Dar’s favor. In every single case, the law enforcement and anti-graft bodies have failed to capture him or convict him in the court of law. Some legal critics have declared the whole Dar saga as a mockery of the law and justice system in the world. Politicians have accused Pakistan’s legal system of having two standards one for the PML-N and another for other parties.