KARACHI – Four female candidates have been short-listed for the upcoming Senate elections, and one of them is Sharmila Farooqui who was banned for 20 years in 2000 from running for any office. Nevertheless, one of the four candidates would be finalised after an interview at the Sindh Chief Minister’s House on Tuesday (tomorrow). The interview would be conducted by Member National Assembly Faryal Talpur – President Asif Ali Zardari’s sister – and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. Out of 37 applications received, the Sindh chapter of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has short-listed member of the provincial assembly Humera Alwani, Sadia Javed, Hina Dastagir and Sharmila Farooqui for the reserved seat for women on Sindh’s quota.
Farooqui, a strong candidate for the Senate seat, was removed as chief minister’s information adviser amid the Supreme Court’s pending decision regarding her plea bargain.
On April 12, 2000, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Court-IV in Karachi had convicted Farooqui and her parents in the Pakistan Steel Mills corruption case and barred them from taking part in any election or holding any public office for 20 years. The three had later approached the Sindh High Court against their conviction, following which the high court had referred their case for a retrial on technical grounds to the same NAB court. During the course of the retrial, Farooqui and her parents filed a plea bargain with the NAB court to avoid further conviction.
Their plea bargain was accepted by the then NAB chairman and later approved by the NAB Court-IV. According to the Constitution and opinion of legal experts, a person who receives a plea bargain is deemed to be convicted. On April 28, 2001, the NAB court declared in its judgement that Farooqui and her parents were disqualified to be elected, appointed or nominated to hold any public office for two decades. Despite her conviction, plea bargain and disqualification, Farooqui was appointed chief minister’s adviser, enjoying not only perks and privileges of a public servant, but also an extraordinary political clout.
Besides being illegal on constitutional grounds, the decision to award a Senate ticket to Farooqui could further irk the civil society and Sindhi nationalists who are already irritated on the presence of non-Sindhi senators, inlcuding Shaukat Tareen, Rehman Malik, Farooq Hameed Naik, Dr Aasim and Faisal Raza Abidi, on the votes of Sindhi members of the provincial assembly.
This could be another bone of contention among the PPP’s own ranks, especially in interior Sindh which is the original power base of the party.
On the condition of anonymity, an MPA said, “The PPP is aiming for at least eight Senate seats in Sindh, but this could create problems for the party leadership because voters are questioning the merit of the senators already elected on the votes of the MPAs.”