ISLAMABAD –The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court a plan has been devised to place details about the nomination papers of all the candidates for the upcoming general elections on the commission’s official website.

Election commission Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed was responding to an observation of a three-judge bench of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed that it was the right of the voters to know the personal details that their candidates had furnished along with their nomination papers.

The apex court bench was conducting a hearing regarding the implementation of its directions for initiating an action against the candidates who submitted bogus degrees at the time of filing the nomination papers to contest the general elections in 2008. 

During the proceedings, Justice Chaudhry observed that the doctrine of throwaway-vote must be discouraged. The voters should seek information about the candidates and file objections, he added.

The court order stated, “The ECP should evolve a mechanism enabling the electors to get a copy of the nomination papers, submitted by their candidates, on paying the fee and other restrictions, but the right of information cannot be taken away from the electors”.

Commission Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed informed the court the ECP had already undertaken an exercise to verify the academic testimonials of 1,170 elected representatives who participated in the 2008 general elections, and the election of the Senate subsequent thereto. He said excluding 69 cases, the Higher Education Commission had authenticated the educational testimonials of all of them.

Ahmed submitted the ECP itself examined the cases, which were not authenticated and concluded that the educational testimonials of some 27 representatives suffered from no deficiency. He said out of the remaining, in 34 cases references were sent to respective DPOs and the courts, and except two cases, one each before the sessions judges in Dera Allah Yar and Dera Ismail Khan, rest of the cases had not been decided yet.

Upon this, the court directed the registrars of the high courts to gather the details of the pending criminal cases before the district and sessions judges against the fake degree holders, and submit a report within two days. It also directed the Inter Board Committee of Chairman, Higher Education Commission, and the Wifaqul Madras to speed up probe into the matter. The court instructed the ECP to collect the information from the police about the fate of the pending criminal proceedings against the fake degree holders.

The ECP secretary assured the court that the academic credentials of the candidates aspiring to contest the upcoming general elections would also be subject to verification by the commission and the Higher Education Commission.

Justice Chaudhry observed that the election commission should protect the voters’ rights to know the details of a candidate. He stated it was the right of the voters to see the nomination papers of the contesting candidates, and directed the ECP secretary to put the nomination papers of the aspiring candidates on the website.

The court asked Jamshaid Dasti to come on Thursday when his petition against the earlier decision of the court would be heard.

Dasti informed the court that he was being victimised after he announced to contest elections as an independent candidate after resigning from the PPP against former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The case was adjourned till 28th of March.