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PML-N loses two National Assembly seats in one day

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LAHORE: The ruling PML-N lost two of its National Assembly seats on Tuesday after separate benches of the Lahore High Court set aside the victory notifications of its lawmakers elected from Gujranwala and Lodhran.

In addition, another PML-N MNA from Nankana Sahib had his victory notification suspended on a petition filed by his PTI-backed opponent.

Meanwhile, incarcerated PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid has challenged former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s victory from Lahore’s NA-130 constituency before an LHC election tribunal.

On Tuesday, LHC Justice Shahid Karim passed an order against NA-81 (Gujranwala) MNA Azhar Qayum Nahra, allowing a petition by PTI-backed independent candidate Chaudhry Bilal Ijaz.

The petitioner’s counsel contended that his client was initially declared elected by 7,791 votes. However, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) conducted a recount on a request of the respondent, Mr Nahra, after which he was declared victorious with a margin of 3,100 votes.

At least 10,000 votes of the petitioner were declared cancelled in the recount, the counsel said.

He argued that the commission violated the law by allowing a recount after the formation of the election tribunals to hear challenges to election disputes and asked the court to strike down the ECP’s impugned recount order for being unlawful.

Justice Karim observed that in ordering the recount, the ECP had ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling. The judge also asked the ECP lawyer if ignoring the Supreme Court’s decision constituted contempt of court.

The judge maintained that the commission could not entertain complaints against election disputes after tribunals had started working, and allowed the petition, setting aside the notification of the respondent’s victory.

Meanwhile, the Bahawalpur bench of the Lahore High Court unseated Abdul Rehman Kan­joo, the PML-N MNA from NA-154 Lodhran, and declared the petitioner, PTI-backed Rana Faraz Noon, as the winner.

According to the PTI candidate’s lawyer Makhdoom Kalimullah Hashmi, the LHC bench, deciding an intra-court appeal (ICA), declared null and void the notification issued by the ECP, regarding Mr Kanjoo’s victory in the Feb 8 general elections.

Mr Kanjoo, a former minister, has also taken oath as an MNA in the National Assembly session.

In both cases, the petitioners — who were runners up in the polls — are likely to be notified as the returned candidates following the success of their pleas.

NA-133 notification suspended

Also on Tuesday, the LHC suspended the victory notification of PML-N’s Rana Arshad from NA-133, Nankana Sahib.

Justice Shahid Karim issued the stay order on a petition filed by PTI-backed independent candidate Mohammad Atif, who pleaded that he was initially declared the returned candidate with a margin of over 3,500 votes.

However, he said, the ECP held a recount on an application of the respondent and declared him victorious by 2,500 votes. He asked the court to set aside the recounting order of the ECP and the impugned notification of the respondent’s victory for being unlawful.

The judge suspended the notification and sought a reply from the ECP and other respondents.

Yasmin’s challenge

Filed through her lawyers, Ahmed Awais and Rana Mudassir, the former Punjab health minister’s petition argued that the ECP issued Mr Sharif’s victory notification in violation of the law.

Previously on Feb 13, the LHC dismissed a writ petition filed by Ms Rashid against Mr Sharif’s victory, directing her to approach the ECP.

On Feb 14, the ECP issued a notification of Mr Sharif’s victory from NA-130.

He won the Feb 8 election with 179,310 votes while Ms Rashid came second with 104,485 votes.

Now, the latter has filed an election petition before the tribunal with a request to set aside the victory of the former prime minister and to declare her returned candidate. She alleged that the ECP manipulated the election results to ensure her defeat.

Balochistan speaker

Separately on Tuesday, the ECP suspended the victory notification of Balochistan Assembly Speaker Abdul Khaliq Khan Achakzai from PB-51, Chaman.

The notification has been suspended until the outcome of re-polling at 12 polling stations, scheduled for April 21, along with by elections in 23 national and provincial assembly constituencies and a re-election in PB-51 (Qila Abdullah).

Meanwhile, the commission also notified Sadaf Ihsan as a returned candidate for the seat reserved for women in the National Assembly from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The notification of her victory was suspended on March 4 after the JUI-F complained that she was not among the names the party had submitted for election to reserved seats.