ECP is empowered to disqualify any member | By Kanwar M Dilshad

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ECP is empowered to disqualify any member

THE Election Commission of Pakistan disqualified Senator Faisal Vawda over concealment of his dual nationality and directed to return within two months the salary and other benefits he has received as a minister and member of the National Assembly.

The Election Commission of Pakistan also denotified him as senator. The Election commission of Pakistan has reserved its verdict on 24 December 2021 on petition seeking disqualification of Mr Vawda over concealment of his American citizenship.

The supporters of PTI being legal experts are of the view that since the Election commission of Pakistan is not a court of law, its role is confined to conduct of elections and it cannot disqualify some body in a post poll scenario.

I am of the opinion that Election commission is empowered to disqualify member of Parliament to examine the ground reality. Though the law is silent and ambiguous and needed clarification but on the other hand Election commission has sufficient powers under Article 2018 of the Constitution to hold free, fair and transparent elections and guard against corrupt practices.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has in its judgment in the Workers Party case held that the Election Commission could also act pre emptively in 2012, the judgment was written by the then Chief justice of Pakistan justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary.

For the guidance of the common people I am quoting the relevant portion of Article 2018.In exercise of powers under Article 2018/3 of the Constitution, read with Section-8/C of the Elections Act 2017, the ECP concludes and holds that the respondent at the time of filing of his nomination papers for the constituency was not an eligible qualified person in terms of Article 63-1/C of the Constitution and has submitted false affidavit and declaration to the effect which squarely falls within the ambit of Article 62-1/F of the Constitution.

Resultantly, the respondent, who has since resigned from the membership of National Assembly, is directed to refund all monetary benefits drawn by him for the period during which he occupied the seat of National Assembly and held the public office and drawn his emoluments from the public exchequer including monthly remunerations, TA/DA facilities of accommodation along with other perks which shall be deposited with the Secretary, National Assembly, with in a period of two months, the Election Commission order .

Election Commission further said that Article 62-1/F of the Constitution, which sets the pre condition for a Member of Parliament to be honest and righteous.

Sadiq and Ameen, is the same provision under which former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by a five-judge Bench of Supreme Court on 28 July 2017, in the Panama papers case.

Likewise, PTI leader Jehangir Tareen was disqualified on 15 December 2017 by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.The Supreme Court has already ruled that disqualification under Article 62-1/F of the Constitution translates into a life time ban on contesting elections.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has also allowed Mr Vawda to move the Supreme Court against its decision, an opportunity, the Supreme Court Bar Association provides an opportunity for not only a legal debate on the subject but also a larger one about demands of democracy itself.

On the other hand some decisions of Supreme Court on the subject are worth reading.

Upholding the Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to disqualify Faisal Vawda for life, the Islamabad High Court on 16 Feb dismissed his petition with the observation that the Election Commission of Pakistan was bound to give effect to the apex court declaration and that is what it has done.

The Honourable Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah observed that the shady conduct of Mr Vawda was the reason for his disqualification.

The petitioner’s conduct has led to disqualification of an elected representative and regrettable for the consequences. Chief Justice Minallah noted that Mr Vawda conduct before the Islamabad High Court remained evasive for reason best known to him, because he kept delaying the proceedings on one pretext or the other.

After delaying the proceedings for more than a year, he informed the court that he had resigned from the National Assembly. Soon after his resignation, he was elected to the Upper House of Parliament.

After throwing out Vawda’s please against disqualification, the Election Commission of Pakistan has issued Senate by election schedule and election of the vacant seat will be held on 9 March 2022.

—The writer is former Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and currently Chairman National Democratic Foundation.

 

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