ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court yesterday set aside the Election Tribunal’s decision to disqualify PML-N legislator permanently and upheld its verdict for re-polls in NA-154. The court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue a notification for by-election in NA-154. Baloch’s lawyer accepted the decision and said his client was ready to go for re-polls. The Election Tribunal had ordered re-polls in NA-154, besides barring PML-N candidate Siddique Khan Baloch from contesting any future election allegedly for holding a fake degree.

Balochistan University and the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE), Karachi, had certified his educational certificates. But Jahangir Tareen’s counsel had doubted the veracity of education certificates of Baloch. The PTI lawyer’s main evidence against Baloch was his cross-examination before the tribunal. Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing Jahangir Tareen, said Baloch had failed to reply to some basic questions in the cross-examination about the subjects he had studied in Matric (10th class), Intermediate and BA.

Siddique Khan Baloch appeared before the bench, but was not allowed to address the court. Talking to media persons, after the proceedings, Baloch said he had decided if his degree was proven fake, he would quit politics. Siddiq Baloch had defeated Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf General Secretary Jahangir Tareen in the 2013 general elections as an independent candidate. Later, he joined Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Tareen had challenged the victory of Baloch before the Election Tribunal which disqualified him because of confusion about his academic documents.

Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who presided over a three-judge bench, said it was very difficult for them to declare anyone dishonest and cheat in the absence of evidence. “If a person could not answer two questions of Persian and one regarding English language, how can we say he is not Sadiq (honest) and Ameen (righteous)?” the judge said. Justice Saqib said: “Since there is no condition of BA now for contesting election, degree is no issue. To declare that anyone is not Sadiq and Ameen, strict criteria must be adopted.” Makhdoom, giving arguments, said: “We talk about the individual shame and not the honour as a whole. We have to be mindful of the national and collective shame.”

Baloch had challenged the verdict of the election tribunal for his permanent disqualification in the apex court, terming it a stigma. The counsel for Siddiq Baloch, Shahzad Shaukat, contended in the apex court the whole case against his client was that his degree was not genuine, but no evidence was provided and the election tribunal gave its verdict relying upon that he had failed to answer some questions about his academic qualification.

After the proceedings, both Jahangir Tareen and Siddiq Baloch claimed the apex court order had vindicated their stance, terming it their victory. “I accept the decision of the Supreme Court and will not comment on the order. However, the court’s decision has endorsed the PTI position regarding rigging in NA-154, Lodhran,” Tareen claimed. He said his party will contest by-polls and secure a historic win in the constituency. Baloch said he was ready to face the most corrupt man of the country in the by-election. He, however, said if the party allowed him to contest the by-polls in NA-154 against Jahangir Tareen, he would definitely be in the field and defeat his rival.