ECP powers to hear petitions against PM challenged

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Panama Leaks

Sophia Siddiqui

Islamabad—A lawyer representing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif challenged the Election Commission of Pakistan’s powers to hear petitions regarding Panama Leaks.
During the hearing a dispute broke out between lawyers present inside the courtroom.
The Prime Minister’s lawyer Salman Butt asked the election commission to hear out his grievances.
To this Latif Khosa, a lawyer representing the Pakistan People’s Party said that the defense wanted to dictate its orders to the Election Commission.
The Chief Election Commissioner said that first a decision would be made over the powers of the ECP.
“The decision will be made here, and not in any rallies or public meetings,” he said.
The hearing of petitions filed by the PPP and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has been adjourned till October 10.
The Pakistan People’s Party has filed a 1000-page reference to the Election Commission of Pakistan, calling for the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The party maintains that Nawaz Sharif had defaulted Rs6 billion when he filed his nomination papers in the ECP in 2013.
The PTI filed a 72-page reference in the ECP calling for the disqualification of the prime minister for hiding his assets.
Prime Minister Nawaz has been under pressure since documents released as part of the Panama Papers data leak showed that his children owned several off-shore companies and used them to buy properties in London. The Prime Minster denies wrongdoing, as do his children.
Leaked confidential documents spanning over nearly 40 years that spell out the extensive use of tax havens by politicians, world leaders, and celebrities to launder money and evade taxes through one of the most secretive companies the Panamaian law firm Mossack Fonseca, had taken the world by storm.
Many Pakistanis have also been named in their revelations.
Meanwhile, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday sought reply from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by October 10 on the petitions filed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seeking his disqualification for his alleged involvement in Panama scandal.
The ECP heard the petitions seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The ECP bench was headed by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (Retd) Sardar Raza Khan and comprising four of its members.
At the very outset of the hearing, Prime Minister’s counsel raised questions over the ECP’s jurisdiction to hear the petition. The PM’s counsel former Attorney General Salman Butt pleaded the ECP to first hear the objections raised by them over the ECP’s jurisdiction.
When CEC asked the PM’s counsel as to why they did not file reply, he replied that the Prime Minister was out of the county, hence they could not file reply.
PPP’s counsel Sardar Latif Khosa said that the PM counsel was trying to dictate the ECP. He contended that during the last hearing the PM was directed to file reply but no reply was filed. Upon this the CEC said that it was ECP’s authority to take a decision. Addressing the PPP’s counsel, the CEC said: “Earlier too, you made the date an issue. The decision will not be taken at public meetings or anywhere else, rather the ECP will take the decision.”
Directing the Prime Minister to file reply, the ECP adjourned further hearing of the petition till October 10.

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