ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan announced its verdict on petitions challenging the Elections Act 2017, ruling that a person disqualified under Article 62 and 63 cannot serve as the head of a political party.
The decision by the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is considered another blow to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) as Nawaz Sharif will no longer remain the party’s president. As a result of the verdict, all decisions taken by Nawaz Sharif as PML-N’s president stand null and void.
Elections Act 2017 was pushed through the upper and lower houses of the parliament earlier and had paved the way for Nawaz to resume his position as party president after being disqualified in the Panama Papers case.
The verdict also ruled that “all steps taken, orders passed, directions given and documents issued, by Nawaz after the July 28 verdict will be deemed to be nullified.
As a consequence, Senate tickets distributed by Nawaz also stand null and void, further casting doubt whether Senate elections will be held on March 3.
The chief justice, in the verdict, said that an individual who has been disqualified under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution is not eligible to sign on any document needed to nominate people to the upper or lower house of parliament.
“Under Article 63-A of the Constitution, the position of a Party Head of a political party that has representation in, inter alia, the Parliament has a central role in the performance of duties by the Members of the Parliament. For rendering such a role, a Party Head must necessarily possess the qualifications and be free of the disqualifications contemplated in Articles 62 & 63 of the Constitution,” stated the verdict.
In the verdict read out by the chief justice, it was also stated that a party’s presidency is directly related to the parliament.
ECP removes Nawaz’s name
The Election Commission of Pakistan removed Nawaz’s name as the party president following the apex court’s verdict.
ECP removed Nawaz’s name as the party president from its record and said the position now stands vacant.
According to the ECP, the name was removed under orders from the Supreme Court.
The electoral body added that Nawaz’s name shall be deemed to have been removed as party president from its election record from July 28, 2017.
Earlier today, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar concluded the hearing of several petitions against the recently-passed Elections Act 2017.
During today’s hearing, the chief justice remarked that the country’s leadership is respectable, adding that the media misreported the court’s remarks.
Chief Justice Nisar also observed that there is no reason for the apex court to use words like thief, adding that the fallout of the issue is unacceptable.
Addressing the Pakistan Peoples Party counsel Latif Khosa during the hearing, the chief justice remarked that there would be a difference in rallies held by you or [slain party leader and former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto.
Another petitioner’s counsel, Farogh Naseem, argued that there is a precedent of a court order against a political party’s head.
The chief justice remarked that in other countries intra-party elections are held but the situation is different in Pakistan.
“The party head is an important position,” the chief justice observed, adding that in Pakistan people are willing to sacrifice their lives for their leaders.
‘Dangerous to do away with laws approved by parliament’
Nawaz, prior to the verdict being announced, had said earlier today that it would be dangerous to do away with laws approved by the parliament as the Constitution is a sacred document to run affairs of the state.
Appreciating the judiciary’s stance regarding the Constitution, the PML-N president said that institutions earn respect through their performance.
However, he said the Constitution would be brought in question if the courts start to verify laws and added that the Constitution is formed by the public’s elected representatives.
The former premier further said that the parliament and the institutions stay within their ambit due to the Constitution.
From disqualification to party president
Following Nawaz’s disqualification as prime minister in July 2017 in the Panama Papers case, the ruling party managed to amend the Constitution to allow the former premier to retain his chairmanship of the PML-N.
As a result, the Elections Act 2017 was passed by Parliament bringing Nawaz back as the party president despite his disqualification from the National Assembly.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, MNA Jamshaid Dasti, National Party and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), among others, challenged the law for allowing a disqualified parliamentarian to become a party head.
The petitions, challenging specific clauses of the Elections Act 2017, state that Nawaz’s appointment as party president is in violation of Clause 5 of the Political Parties Order 2002 and Article 17 of the Constitution.