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Top vote body in Pakistan disqualifies govt lawmaker over dual nationality

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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has finally announced the verdict in Senator Faisal Vawda’s dual nationality case, declaring him ineligible for holding the seat of a senator.

ECP had reserved the verdict on PPP MNA Qadir Khan Mandokhail’s plea seeking Vawda’s disqualification on December 23, 2021.

The petitioners had contended that Vawda had concealed his US nationality while submitting his nomination papers to the returning officer for the National Assembly seat, and refrained from stating the date of his renunciation of the US nationality despite being asked by the ECP several times.

During the trial, Vawda received multiple warnings and extensions for the submission of his arguments to counter the prosecution’s stance.

Vawda had won the 2018 general election from Karachi’s NA-249 constituency.

In January this year, an investigative report published in The News had revealed that Vawda may have committed perjury by falsely declaring in an oath to the ECP that he did not hold any , foreign nationality.

According to media reports, Vawda was in possession of a United States passport at the time he filed his nomination papers on June 11, 2018. The minister remained an American national even at the time the scrutiny of his nomination papers were completed.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a past judgment has categorically ruled that candidates who hold dual nationality are supposed to submit a renunciation certificate of the foreign nationality along with their nomination papers.

The same judgment has previously led to the disqualification of various lawmakers, notable among whom Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senators Saadia Abbasi and Haroon Akhtar.

On Tuesday, The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday has suspended the order issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regarding the disqualification of Umar Amin Gandapur, the brother of Federal Minister Ali Amin Gandapur.

The ECP had barred Umar Amin Gandapur from contesting the mayoral slot for Dera Ismail Khan in the upcoming local body elections after which he challenged the order in the IHC on Tuesday.

Umar filed a petition at the IHC against the decision to declare ECP’s decision “null and void” as it was made without the summary inquiry and therefore, violated the code of conduct. During the hearing, Umar’s advocate Ali Zafar pleaded that the ECP had failed to meet the requirements of transparency in the case, adding that the candidate should have been given the benefit of the doubt. He argued that no notice was given and the whole investigation was against Ali but the order was given against Umar.

The plea also listed the Election Commission of Pakistan, chief election commissioner, regional election commissioner, and Senator Kamran Murtaza as parties. Zafar argued that the ECP had not followed the procedure in the case, adding that a candidate could be fined up to Rs50,000 if he is found involved in a violation of the code of conduct as per the law.

The IHC said that the ECP order would remain on the field as far as Ali Amin Gandapur is concerned. Meanwhile, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued a notice to the ECP and sought a reply till February 11. The hearing has been adjourned.

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