ISLAMABAD - In an unprecedented development, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has slapped a two-year disqualification on a ruling party candidate Waheeda Shah, accused of highhandedness during recent by-election, and declared the results of the Sindh Assembly’s constituency null and void, as it also announced re-election in the said electorate.

The move came after an intense deadlock between the chief election commissioner (CEC) and the four ECP members over deciding the fate of Waheeda Shah.

The information obtained by this newspaper suggest CEC Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mizra’s alleged support to Waheeda reflected on Wednesday, when he and an ECP member from Sindh, Justice (r) Roshan Essani, opposed any action against her, while the other three members - Justice (r) Fazlur Rehman (Balochistan), Justice (r) Shahzad Akbar Khan (Khyber Pk) and Justice (r) Riaz Kayani (Punjab) - reported to have strongly advocated disqualification and re-election in PS-53 Tando Muhammad Khan. Later, the majority vote prevailed with a three-two equation resulting in the decision against Waheeda.

The PPP candidate was found having slapped Presiding Officer Habiba Memon and Assistant Presiding Officer Shagufta Memon during the February 25 by-poll. She unofficially stood victorious in the by-election, the results of which were withheld by the ECP after the slapping incident. The apex court has also taken notice of the incident where the related case is pending.

In the story titled ‘Waheeda Shah may face disqualification’ TheNation on March 1 had first reported that Shah could be disqualified in the light of Article 63 of the Constitution and its related provisions. The ECP proceeded to disqualify her citing Article 63 that says, “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) if........’He is found guilty of corrupt or illegal practice under any law for the time being in force, unless a period of five years has elapsed from the date on which that order takes effect.”

Waheeda during by-poll had ‘broken’ into the polling room without being authorised in an alleged bid to influence the electoral process, an unlawful move that amounted to misuse of power and authority.

Article 113 of the Constitution on qualifications and disqualifications for the membership of a provincial assembly says, “The qualifications and disqualifications for membership of the National Assembly set out in Article 62 and 63 shall also apply for membership of a Provincial Assembly as if reference therein to ‘National Assembly’ were a reference to ‘Provincial Assembly’.”

In addition to prior news items, TheNation on Wednesday (yesterday) had reported that Sindh’s Provincial Election Commission (PEC) and the CEC were all-out to favour Shah through ‘lenient’ inquiry report the Sindh’s PEC had prepared on the slapping incident. Sindh’s PEC had reportedly suggested winding up the issue in the inquiry report citing ‘reconciliation’ between parties, this newspaper had also reported. The same transpired on Wednesday when CEC Justice (r) Hamid Ali Mirza and Justice (r) Roshan Essani had reportedly contended that an application against Shah was not maintainable on the grounds that Habiba Memon and Shagufta Memon had ‘forgiven’ Waheeda.

Reportedly, the two senior ECP officials were also quoted having said the matter between the parties was resolved and it was, therefore, not to be proceeded in the ECP.

As per ECP’s decision, the two-year disqualification came effective from yesterday March 7 for 24 months. The ECP would hold by-election in PF-53 within 60 days from yesterday (Wednesday). Shah has the right to appeal in the Supreme Court within 15 days from March 7.

Reportedly, the ECP decision on Waheeda was scheduled at 2 pm (Wednesday) but following THE deadlock between the ECP members and the CEC due to Justice (r) Mirza and Justice (R) Essani’s opposition against disqualification, both the senior officials did not sign the final draft of the decision that caused some four-hour delay in the decision’s arrival. Both the former judges finally accepted the majority decision and signed the draft, reportedly.

When approached, this scribe’s call ‘affronted’ Waheeda. “Are you happy now? Isn’t it what you wanted? Shame on you and your media for destroying my career!” an audibly aggrieved Waheeda said. When told that the ECP and not the media decided against her, she said: “It’s because you guys made fuss of the issue.”

Waheeda said she would move the SC against the decision. “I would knock every door to seek justice.”

Waheeda and her counsel Mustafa Safvi were present in the ECP when the decision was announced while Habiba Memon and Shagufta Memon did not show up nor did anyone represent them.