Lahore: A Pakistani court on Monday cleared former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf's candidature for the May 11, 2013, general election, setting aside an election tribunal's decision to reject his nomination papers over allegations of corruption. A full bench of the Lahore High Court observed that there was no court declaration against Ashraf that declared him "non-profligate, non-righteous or non-sagacious", and he could not be barred from participating in the polls.
The Pakistan People's Party leader will now be eligible to contest the polls from a parliamentary constituency in his hometown of Gujjar Khan, located 125 km from Islamabad. Earlier, the same bench of the High Court had provisionally allowed Ashraf to contest the election. The bench said neither the Returning Officer nor the election tribunal had jurisdiction to exercise powers under Article 62 of the Constitution to bar the former premier from the polls.
The bench ruled that this Article could be used only against those who have a court declaration against them. A lawyer for one of Ashraf's opponents, Raja Irfan Aziz, argued that the former premier should be disqualified as the Islamabad High Court had passed a judgement against him for illegally awarding a contract. He said the Islamabad High Court had referred the matter to the National Accountability Bureau for investigation. The bench, however, asked Aziz's counsel to prove that the judgement of the Islamabad High Court was a declaration and not an observation.
Earlier, the same bench of the High Court had provisionally allowed Ashraf to contest the election.
It contended that it was a declaration and said it was not necessary to use the word "declaration" in a court judgement to make it a declaration. Former Law Minister Farooq H Naek, Latif Khosa, Ahsan Bhoon and Abid Saqi appeared in the court to defend Ashraf. They said there were mere allegations against their client and he could not be stopped from contesting the election on this ground.
Ashraf was sworn in as premier in June last year after the Supreme Court sacked his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani after convicting him of contempt for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland.