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  • Feb 22nd, 2018
  • Comments Off on SC rules Nawaz cannot lead party: Senate polls, PML-N face disarray
Three-member Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not eligible to become party head after his disqualification from holding any public office in the wake of the Panama Papers verdict of July 28 last year.

Nawaz Sharif was elected president of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) while the incumbent parliament passed Election Reforms Act, 2017 after his disqualification. Opposition parties PPP, PTI and others filed as many as 16 petitions against the legislation before the apex court.

Allowing all the pleas, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar announced a short order with directives to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to remove name of Nawaz Sharif as PML-N president from all relevant records. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who authored the short order of the apex court, said that under Article 63-A of the Constitution, a political party head necessarily possesses qualifications and be free of the disqualifications contemplated in Articles 62 & 63 of the Constitution.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said that the Election Act, 2017 empowers a party head to perform multifarious functions that have direct nexus with the process of elections to the parliament and to matters relating to the affairs of political parties having parliamentary presence.

"Therefore, for detailed reasons to be recorded later, these constitutional petitions are allowed. It is held and declared that provisions of Sections 203 and 232 of the Election Act, 2017 are liable to be read, construed and interpreted subject to the provisions of Articles 62, 63 and 63-A of the Constitution0," stated the short order.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said that it is declared that any person who suffers from lack of qualification under Article 62 or disqualification under Article 63 of the Constitution is debarred from holding the position of 'party head' by whatever name called and prohibited from exercising any of the powers provided in Article 63-A of the Constitution, as 'party head' or any other power in the said capacity under any law, rule, regulation, statute, instrument or document of any political party.

"Such bar and prohibition shall commence from the date of disqualification and continue till such time that the lack of qualification/disqualification of such person continues in terms of the provisions of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution," said the short order. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar declared that all steps taken, orders passed, directions given and documents issued by Mian Nawaz Sharif being PML-N president after July 28, 2017 as never been taken.

"The Election Commission of Pakistan is accordingly directed to remove the name of respondent No 4 (Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif) as president/party head of respondent No 3 (Pakistan Muslim League (N) from all relevant record(s)," the short order concluded.

Reuters adds: Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif be removed as head of the political party he founded, six months after the court disqualified him as the country's leader over unreported income.

The new ruling could throw into disarray Senate elections due on March 3, with opposition figures saying it invalidates candidates from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) nominated by Sharif.

The PML-N controls the lower house of parliament. Winning control of the Senate too would allow the PML-N to change the constitution to make Sharif eligible to hold office again when the party contests a national election due later this year. Sharif is also being tried by a separate anti-corruption court on other charges - proceedings ordered by the Supreme Court last July - and could face jail when that trial winds up as soon as next month.

Wednesday's order overturned a legal amendment by PML-N lawmakers allowing Sharif to remain party president despite being disqualified from public office by the Supreme Court for failing to declare monthly income of 10,000 Emirati dirham ($2,723) from a company owned by his son.

"The Election Commission is directed to remove the name of Nawaz Sharif as president of PML-N from all official records," Chief Justice Saqib Nisar said from the bench. "As a result, all steps taken, all orders passed by Nawaz Sharif are also declared to be as if they had never been taken." Sharif denies any wrongdoing and has said his family fortune was obtained legally.

Sharif's party retains a majority in the National Assembly and has vowed it will be vindicated in elections held this year, in which his brother will be the prime ministerial candidate. While the national election is voted upon by the public, the Senate election is conducted by members of the National Assembly and the local assemblies of Pakistan's four provinces.

"DISGRACE"

The legal cases against Sharif have been spearheaded by opposition politician Imran Khan, a former international cricketer whose party cheered Wednesday's decision as a victory against corrupt politics. Members of Sharif's party were defiant on Wednesday. "This is Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif will run PML-N even if he is in a jail cell," said a government official from Sharif's party, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It will send an impression among people, and in our party that these actions are being taken to pressure Nawaz Sharif," Zafrullah Khan, Sharif's ruling party legal adviser, said to private TV. "It will benefit us." Faisal Chaudhry, a lawyer for one of the 17 opposition party petitioners who sought Sharif's removal as party head, said the court decision invalidated all of Sharif's decisions since last July, including the candidates he nominated for the Senate election. "My understanding is that the candidates can still contest but as independent and not as Nawaz Sharif's party ticket holders," Chaudhry said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018


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