ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator and former finance minister Ishaq Dar has contended before the Supreme Court that no law could bar an absconder from contesting elections.

Dar, through his counsel Salman Aslam Butt, submitted a 10-page reply in the top court over an application of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidate Muhammad Nawazish Ali Pirzada challenging Dar’s Senate membership.

On March 9, PPP candidate Pirzada filed an application pleading that the Accountability Court had declared Ishaq Dar a Proclaimed Offender so he could not be elected as member of the Senate. It was further pleaded that the absconder Dar could not contest election unless he surrenders.

Dar, who is currently in London on medical grounds, was declared a Proclaimed Offender by the Islamabad’s Accountability Court in the assets beyond known sources of income following the verdict in the Panama Papers case on July 28 last year.

“A person can only be debarred from contesting the elections if his case falls squarely within the strict scope of the qualifications and disqualifications stipulated by the constitution and by law,” Dar contended recalling that he was not disqualified from being a member of the Parliament in the wake of the Panama Papers judgment.  

“No such proceedings were or have been initiated before any competent forum by the Appellant (Pirzada) in respect of the ground of disqualification being urged nor is there any valid, final and binding determination, declaration against the Answering Respondent (Ishaq Dar) in respect of the allegations levelled in the titled appeal,” the reply stated.  

The election laws and more particularly disqualification provisions geared towards disenfranchising a candidate and depriving him of a valuable right of franchise guaranteed under the Constitution are to be construed strictly, the reply stated, adding any ambiguity therein is to be resolved in favour of the candidate who could be permitted to participate in the electoral process.

It further stated that a person who has been declared to be an absconder is not deprived of his constitutional and civil rights on account of such declaration, including the right to contest elections nor any such declaration attracts any of the provisions of Article 62.

The reply further contended that in connection with the Senate Elections and to fulfil the requirements of the Election Act, Dar opened account in the National Bank of Pakistan in Lahore in accordance with the applicable rules/standard operating procedures for opening of an account as well as fulfilling the requisite requirements.

Since the law favours a liberal interpretation so as to facilitate a person to contest election, it stated, adding a writ petition disenfranchising a candidate cannot be readily invoked when a post-election stage challenge may be available to the appellant, therefore, the writ petition is not maintainable.

Dar also questioned the right of PPP’s Pirzada and stated that he had no locus standi to file the writ petition and assail the Lahore High Court judgment since the latter neither objected to the nomination papers during the scrutiny proceedings nor did he file any appeal against the RO’s order.

It further added that allegations pertaining to ‘pre-election’ qualification of a member of the Parliament, as provided for in Article 62 (1), cannot be raised or made after holding of the elections

Regarding Dar being an absconder, the reply stated, Ishaq Dar has all along in the course of the concerned proceedings in the Accountability Court presented his point of view and factual position on account of which he is not in a position to appear before the relevant court.