ISLAMABAD: A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking the top court’s intervention to restrict electoral candidates from contesting polls in multiple constituencies, as such a practice was a “waste of public money and time” and akin to “political exploitation”.

The plea was filed by an aspiring candidate for the NA-118 seat in Nankana Sahib on Monday who questioned the logic behind contesting elections on multiple seats and recommended a “two-seat rule” to strike the right balance.

Advocate Mian Asif Mehmood, while acting pro bono publico, asked whether the aspiring candidates could contest elections from an area other than their native constituency despite the fact they know nothing about the problems of the locals.

The recent filing of nomination papers by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chair­man Imran Khan in nine constituencies for the upcoming by-elections on the seats that fell vacant after National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf accepted the resignations of PTI MNAs prompted the petitioner to move the court.

The petition also reque­sted the Supreme Court to restrain Imran Khan from contesting elections until he resigned before the competent authority/office as a member of the National Assembly.

Imran Khan, the federal government through the cabinet division, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the law ministry as well as the Attorney General for Pakistan have been named as respondents in the petition.

The petition highlighted a lacuna in the elections law to contest polls on multiple seats by the same candidate in the general elections and pleaded that it should be addressed since it amounts to political exploitation. The petition also cited the experience in the 2018 general election, when a number of candidates contested elections on multiple seats, like Imran Khan who contested general elections on five seats simultaneously and won all of them and later vacated four seats.

Consequently, ECP had to conduct a re-poll on all those seats. Likewise, former PTI leader Aleem Khan contested elections on more than seven seats, and PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari contested the election on three seats.

“There may be a political logic to the decision of candidates to contest election on multiple seats in general elections to save their faces and their constant rule in the corridors of power and their parties, but legally this phenomenon is questionable,” the petition argued.

The costs of one individual contesting multiple seats are significant, the petition stated.

“This is a waste of ECP’s resources during the general elections and the by-elections,” the petition said and added an upper limit on the number of seats an individual contests in general elections should be fixed.

The petition also suggested a two-seat rule by parliament and the ECP, like at the National Assembly level, a candidate could be restricted to two contests, one each in two provinces of the candidate’s choice. Alternatively, a candidate can be permitted to contest one MNA seat and one MPA seat, it added.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2022

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