In an unexpected development, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday postponed till September 3 the announcement of its already reserved verdict against the appointment of Maryam Nawaz as vice-president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). A three-member ECP bench comprising Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) former Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza, and ECP members former Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (Punjab) and former Justice Irshad Qaiser (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) resumed the hearing of the case on a petition against Maryam filed by PTI Members of National Assembly (MNAs) including Maleeka Ali Bokhari, Kanwal Shauzab, Javeria Zafar and Farrukh Habib on May 9.
On August 1, the bench had reserved its verdict in the case which was to be announced on Tuesday (August 27). However, during the hearing of the case, the CEC, following the discussions with the two ECP members, observed that the petitioners have sought disqualification of defendant in light of the Articles 62 and Article 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan. He further observed that considering the seriousness of the matter, it is necessary to seek opinion from the lawyers regarding the interpretation of the Articles 62 and 63. The ECP bench then decided to postpone the verdict for one week and would announce it now on September 3.
Although the Articles 62 and 63 lay down the criteria of qualification and disqualification for the membership of Pakistan's Parliament, the PTI seeks Maryam's disqualification from the party office while taking the plea that she is unfit to hold any public or party office after being convicted by the accountability court in the Avenfield Apartments reference and that she also does not meet the criteria for the qualification of Parliament's membership and stands disqualified in light of the relevant provisions of the Articles 62 and 63, and Political Parties Order, 2002 . On July 6 last year, the accountability court awarded Maryam seven-year sentence, her father Nawaz Sharif 10-year sentence and husband Captain Muhammad Safdar (retd) one-year sentence in the Avenfield Apartment reference.
On May 3 this year, Maryam was assigned the position of party's vice president by her uncle and President PML-N Shehbaz Sharif who shuffled certain key party cadres.
In September 2018, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had suspended the prison sentences of Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain Safdar (retd) and granted them bail. However, their respective convictions are still in effect.
In January this year, the Supreme Court upheld the IHC's decision to grant bail to Maryam and her husband and dismissed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) appeal against the IHC decision. The case has been pending in the IHC since then.
The Section 5 (1) of Political Parties Order 2002 reads, "(1) Every citizen, not being in the service of Pakistan, shall have the right to form or be a member of a political party or be otherwise associated with a political party or take part in political activities or be elected as an office-bearer of a political party, provided that a person shall not be appointed or serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is not qualified to be, or is disqualified from being, elected or chosen as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) under the Article 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or under any other law for the time being in force."
The former federal government of the PML-N had got the Section 5 (1) of Political Parties Order 2002 omitted by introducing relevant amendment in Elections Act 2017 and getting them passed by the Parliament, which were signed into law by the president of Pakistan. These moves apparently aimed at allowing Nawaz Sharif to continue heading the PML-N as its President despite being disqualified by the Supreme Court in Panama Papers corruption case on July 25, 2017.
But in February 2018, the Supreme Court, on petitions against Nawaz Sharif holding office of PML-N president, barred the former prime minister from heading the PML-N and removed him from the position of the party's president.
"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 the Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution," reads the Supreme Court's short order issued on February 21, 2018.
In the light of the same judgment, the Section 5 (1) of the Political Parties Order 2002 stands restored, the ECP insiders informed Business Recorder.
The Article 62 (1) (f) reads, "Qualifications for membership of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).-(l) A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless- (f) he is sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law-."
The Article 63 (1) (h) reads, "Disqualifications for membership of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).-(1) A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if he has been on conviction for any offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release."