The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the notifications which declared Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) as winning candidate from Jhang NA-89. The Election Commission of Pakistan and an election tribunal had declared Ludhianvi the winner after Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Sheikh Muhammad Akram was disqualified for allegedly being a loan defaulter. The election tribunal had passed the order on a petition filed by Ludhianvi in which he had alleged that Akram was not an eligible candidate as he did not fulfil the condition of being “sadiq and ameen” (honest and trustworthy). A three-member bench — headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali — suspended both the notifications, saying that the tribunal had not given enough reasons for the disqualification. The bench said the tribunal’s decision did not take into account the ground realities in the constituency and the number of votes each candidate received. The bench has asked the tribunal to re-evaluate the situation and inform the court within three months.
The election tribunal has the power to declare as the winning candidate the first runner up in case of disqualification of the original winner as it did in this case. But does it also have the power to turn its eyes away from the eligibility of the runner-up? It is now an open secret that the ASWJ, a banned organization, contested the 2013 elections camouflaging itself as the Rahi-Haq Party, under yet another larger cover of the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz (MDM). Technically speaking, after the revelation of this manipulation, should not the entire lot of MDM have been declared disqualified? This is a blatant lie the group indulged in and according to Articles 62 and 63, dishonesty is just not acceptable. If the election tribunal can disqualify Shiekh Akram for being dishonest, why can it not do the same with the members of MDM? The irony is that even after knowing that Ludhianvi had lied to the Election Commission (EC), the election tribunal declared him the winner and that too without conducting a satisfactory investigation.
The ranting about Sadiq and Ameen (the honest and the trustworthy) during the general elections of 2013 had at one point made the nomination process look like a circus where the actors were asked to perform certain acts before they were given the nod to go ahead. These acts included reciting the Quran, swearing upon God that the candidate prays five times a day and answering questions about Islamic history. On some occasions, by merely telling the name of prayers a candidate could get a clean chit of being the most honest amongst the honest. With Ludhianvi winning the nomination chit, one can well imagine the level of honesty displayed by the EC in thrashing out the good from the bad.*