Five leaders of banned groups contesting polls
By Umar Cheema, The NEws, January 11, 2008
ISLAMABAD: Contrary to the election rules, five candidates belonging to outlawed extremist organisations are contesting the elections in Jhang District alone. Their names are included in the 4th schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Jhang city, the hotbed of sectarianism, had earlier over 10 elected union council Nazims from this category, notwithstanding the government claim that such people would not be allowed to contest the election. Orders were also issued in this regard.
The PML-Q district president, Sheikh Yaqoob, has cobbled together an alliance with the banned outfit’s leader there and he had no hesitation in admitting this. And ironically, there is another PML-Q candidate for the National Assembly seat, Waqas Akram Sheikh, contesting against the banned outfit’s leader under serious security threats.
He has written a letter to the president, the prime minister and the provincial administration in a bid to draw their attention towards the violation of the election rules and the declared agenda of President Musharraf, but the letter fell on deaf ears, leaving Waqas prone to serious death threats.
Although, it is the job of the Election Commission of Pakistan and the police to stop them from contesting elections, both are engaged in the blame game by throwing responsibility on each other.
Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi, the provincial head of proscribed Sipah-e-Sahaba, is contesting against Waqas Akram Sheikh, the PML-Q candidate from NA-89. Ludhianvi has formed an alliance with the PML-Q district president, Sheikh Yaqoob, under which the banned SSP would support his candidature for provincial assembly seat (PP-77). Yaqoob confirmed to The News about this alliance and said his main worry was how to win the seat, no matter who his ally was and he defended his decision. Asked that his party and President Musharraf had been issuing statements against religious extremists with the banned SSP leadership on the top in this regard, he said he was doing all this to bag votes and for no other purpose.
DPO Jhang Amjad Saleemi, who was transferred from Sialkot after jail riots there that also claimed the lives of two civil judges, also confirmed to The News that Ludhianvi’s name was in the 4th schedule of the Anti Terrorism Act and he was not even allowed to go to public meetings, even to hospital. But he said it was the duty of the Election Commission of Pakistan to bar them from contesting as per the election order that strictly prohibited such elements from contesting. He said Ludhianvi’s contender, Waqas Sheikh, objected to it but the District Returning Officer, who was hearing the case, said they did not accept the 4th schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act and that the objector should go to the high court in appeal if there was any problem.
The DPO said the home secretary had also written a letter that said that Waqas was under serious threats to his life, according to intelligence reports. Even DIG Special Branch (Sargodha) also said that Waqas was on the hit list of the members of a banned outfit that had earlier rammed an explosive-laden bike into a bus carrying Air Force officers on November 1 last year in Sargodha that had killed nine people and injured 14 others.
It has also been learnt that the home secretary told Waqas Sheikh that he was under serious threat and that the government could allow him to import bulletproof vehicle but he did not take any action against those contesting the election.
According to the Anti Terrorism Act, the police must arrest such people if they go to a public rally, let alone the rallies being addressed by Ludhianvi and his colleagues.
There are four other persons included in 4th schedule, whose nomination papers were approved by the District Returning Officer of Jhang. They are Sheikh Hakim Ali, Abdul Ghafoor Jhangvi, Munir Kalia, Sana-ul-Haq Tirmizi and Muhammad Saleem Butt. The DPO Jhang confirmed that the names of these figures were included in 4th schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act but said the police were unable to do anything.
Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Kanwar Dilshad shifted the blame on the government. Dilshad said had the interior ministry provided them the list carrying the names of all those included in the 4th schedule, they would not have allowed them to contest. However, he had no answer to the decision of DRO of allowing them to contest notwithstanding the fact the police confirmed this in front of him.
A letter obtained from the interior ministry reveals that Waqas Akram Sheikh had written to the president, PM, ECP chief and the home secretaries of the Punjab coupled with the IGP, concerned DRO and DCOs regarding the sad state of affairs. He also mentioned the fact that the PML-Q district president and provincial assembly candidate had formed an alliance with the banned SSP.
Waqas, the letter said, has also complained about the display of prohibited weapons there by the SSP leaders, misuse of mosques and their loud speakers for political purposes and the magnitude of death threats he had been facing from these people. He said the PML-Q district president was flouting the agenda of President Musharraf by supporting banned outfit leaders. However, the letter has received a cold shoulder, as did the letters of Benazir Bhutto who ultimately met the tragic end due to security lapses, a source said.