Election Roundup: You’re out of order! This whole trial’s out of order!

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Legal experts are calling it unprecedented and a gross overstep of judicial jurisdiction. But however one wants to describe it, the ‘disqualification’ of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is definitely confusing.

On Monday, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani of Islamabad’s appellate tribunal adjourned the hearing pertaining the RO’s rejection of the candidature of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for Islamabad’s NA-53, allowing the former premier to contest from the said constituency.

On Wednesday, a different appellate tribunal, headed by Justice Ibad Lodhi of the LHC, not only rejected the candidature of Abbasi from his home constituency of NA 57 Muree, but went so far as to disqualify him altogether for not being ‘sadiq and amin.’

What makes the matter even more absurd is that Abbasi had actually had his papers for the Islamabad seat rejected by the RO, and then had them cleared on appeal. In Murree, his papers had been accepted and it was an appeal against the acceptance that was picked up by the tribunal on which his nomination has been rejected.

But the problem lies not in there being something wrong with Abbasi’s papers, but in fact that the court went the extra step and disqualified him on Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of Pakistan. The logic goes that since Abbasi misrepresented his assets in his papers, he was untruthful and is thus neither sadiq nor ameen, because of which he is ineligible for elected office.

The judgment is judicial overreach if there ever was. Appellate Tribunals are supposed to accept or reject nominations. Period. But not only has Justice Ibad gone the extra mile, he has also stepped on the toes of the Islamabad tribunal, and what happens on that front remains murky territory that will only be cleared in the days to come.

For Abbasi, the timeline will be important. Thursday is the last day for the tribunals to make decisions regarding candidates. Friday is the last day to withdraw candidature and Saturday is when the final lists arrive.

Other heads rolled too at the hands of Justice Ibad Lodhi. Fawad Chaudhry of PTI was one of them. Abbasi, to his credit, has not had an outburst. In fact, he remained quite calm, if disgruntled, when he announced he would appeal the decision. He went so far as to say that he accepted and respects the tribunal’s decision. During his run as prime minister, Abbasi managed to warm some hearts while warming the bench. His poised, average-joe persona has won him some points, and one can expect him to carry through this mess with the same dignity.

PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry, on the other hand, was his usual self. For all his party’s talk of respecting the judiciary, he was verbose in questioning the appointment of the judge in question and claiming his papers had been rejected on the behest of former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry. He will be appealing too.

Post-script:

The caretakers are still at it, it seems! Two more people have been inducted into the federal cabinet as Lt Gen (r) Khalid Lodhi and businessman Mian Misbahur Rehman were administered oath by President Mamnoon.

While Misbah is a prominent businessman with enough social capital and personality to have been chairman of Lahore Gymkhana, Lodhi was sacked from the military in 2012 for gross misconduct by the then prime minister. His military mind might just have been needed in the wake of departing NSA Lt General (r) Nasser Janjua.

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