Lahore - The Lahore High Court full bench on Monday annulled the verdict of the election tribunal and allowed former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to contest elections.

The bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan on Monday, passed the orders while hearing Ashraf’s application challenging his ban and a petition against him.

The bench suspended the verdict of election tribunal and allowed him to contest elections from NA-51 Gojar Khan, observing that the returning officer rejected his nomination papers without hearing him and relied on allegations, which was against the norms of justice. The bench also observed that Ashraf was not convicted in any case. The counsel for plaintiff argued that the Supreme Court had issued contempt notice to former premier in Rental Power case.

The former prime minister had also used billions of rupees from his discretionary funds despite a ban put by the ECP. He requested the bench not to allow him to contest elections.

In his appeal against the tribunal decision, Raja Pervez Ashraf maintained that the returning officer (RO) had rejected his papers after Raja Irfan Aziz, his political rival, alleged that he had misused discretionary funds in his constituency.  The nomination papers were rejected on the basis of awarding a contract to the national logistic cell (NLC), for involvement in the rental power project case and in a contempt of court case for writing a letter to the Supreme Court, the appellant added.

Farooq H Naek, counsel for Ashraf, said that his client was not convicted in any case and it was the bias decision of the tribunal to bar him from contesting the election. He contended that the unfair rule of guilty unless proven innocent should not be applied in his case.

Unless he is proven guilty, he will be innocent, the counsel added. Earlier, the bench directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to include Ashraf in the electoral process, and the matter of his eligibility to contest elections was deferred until the final decision on the applications.