ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court has ordered former finance minister Ishaq Dar to appear before the court on May 8 in a case challenging his nomination papers for the election of Senate on the grounds of being an absconder.

The top court, however, observed that Dar shall be granted protective bail so that he may not be arrested. He, however, observed that the former finance minister has to appear in the court.

In a previous order, the top court had asked Dar as whether he can be allowed to contest elections under Article 62(1)(d) of the Constitution.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah took up the appeal challenging the Election of Dar as senator.

To a question regarding whereabouts of Dar, Salman Aslam Butt, counsel representing the ex-finance minister, informed the bench that his client had “medical issues”. 

Rejecting the plea, the CJ said that he (Dar) is not much ill to remain absent as this court had ordered for his appearance.

The court further observed that Dar should obey the court orders, adding if he doesn't appear before it then they would take a decision whatever it deems appropriate.

The CJ asked Dar’s counsel if he knows the citizen’s arrest law for an absconder, adding a citizen can also arrest an absconder. He further said that the prime minister came across the absconder (Ishaq Dar) in London, adding seemingly the premier was not aware of this law.

He further observed that Dar after protective bail may appear in the accountability court and satisfy it.

Ishaq Dar has been in London since October last year after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the wake of Panama Papers verdict filed a reference against him on account of allegedly possessing wealth beyond known sources and the Accountability Court declared him an absconder.

In March, Dar was elected to the Upper House of Parliament as an independent candidate following the top court’s order on the Election Act 2017 that Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Quaid Nawaz Sharif cannot head a political party and all decisions following his disqualification stand null and void. 

However, in the same month his eligibility was challenged by the Pakistan People’s Party’s Nawazish Pirzada who contended that an absconder could not contest elections.

He requested the top court to suspend the Lahore High Court (LHC) judgment, which had allowed former finance minister Ishaq Dar to contest the election for Senate.

The petitioner had prayed the apex court to direct the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) not to issue notification of Ishaq Dar till the final adjudication of his petition.

Pirzada in his petition had contended that Dar was declared an absconder by the Accountability Court on December 11, 2017.

Dar in his reply to the top court had contended that there was no provision of law which could bar an absconder from contesting the elections.

In his 10-page reply in the Supreme Court, he contended: “A person can only be debarred from contesting the elections if his case falls squarely within the strict scope of the qualifications and disqualifications stipulated by the constitution and by law.” 

“No such proceedings were or have been initiated before any competent forum by the Appellant (Pirzada) in respect of the ground of disqualification being urged nor is there any valid, final and binding determination, declaration against the Answering Respondent (Ishaq Dar) in respect of the allegations levelled in the titled appeal,” the reply stated. 

He had further added that allegations pertaining to ‘pre-election’ qualification of a member of the Parliament, as provided for in Article 62 (1), cannot be raised or made after holding of the elections.