ISLAMABAD: Former Senator and Pakistan Peoples Part (PPP) Spokesperson Farhatullah Babar has said that party’s Chairperson Benazir Bhutto is eligible to contest the upcoming general election in Pakistan. He was commenting on some sections of the press quoting some legal experts as saying that a person convicted by a court of law cannot contest elections and have raised questions whether Benazir Bhutto can contest elections.
Giving the PPP point of view on the issue the party spokesperson said till date Benazir Bhutto has not been convicted for corruption or moral turpitude or misuse of power in none of the six references filed against her in 1997 by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). He said Bhutto went out of Pakistan in January 1999 with the permission of Lahore High Court while her lawyers regularly represented her in the courts. He said Accountability Court convicted Miss Bhutto in the SGS case in her absence. However, on appeal the full bench of the Supreme Court set aside her conviction. She has also been acquitted in the case of alleged misuse of powers in giving jobs in the PIA, he added.
Accountability Court Rawalpindi convicted and sentenced her in the SGS and ARY Gold cases, under Section 31-A of National Accountability Bureau Ordinance 1999, declaring her as proclaimed offender. This despite the fact that her counsel was present and orders of courts were shown to the trial judge, he stated. It may be mentioned that the Supreme Court had held that Sec 31-A does not have retrospective affect, he added.
Furthermore, after the 2006 verdict of Sindh High Court that convictions under Section 31-A of NAB Order are unlawful, the Accountability Courts have stopped passing conviction orders under the said Section.The conviction order has also since been challenged before LHC, Rawalpindi Bench, he said. He said Article 63 (1) (h) disqualifies “a person who has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction on a charge of corrupt practice, moral turpitude or misuse of power or authority under any law for the time being in force”. As Miss Bhutto has not been convicted in any case on the allegation of corrupt practice, moral turpitude or misuse of power she is therefore not disqualified from contesting elections, he stated.