All steps taken, orders passed, documents issued as PML-N head stand nullified
A three member bench of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday announced its judgment in Elections Act 2017 declaring that any individual disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 cannot serve as party head.
The passage of the Elections Act 2017 from the Upper and Lower houses last year had paved the way for Nawaz Sharif to resume his position as PML-N chief following his disqualification from public office in Panama Papers case.
The chief justice on Wednesday said that a person who is disqualified under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution is not eligible to sign on any document that is needed to nominate someone to the National Assembly or Senate.
The order reads: “all steps taken, orders passed, direction given and documents issued by the respondent as the party head after his disqualification on 28-07-2017 are also declared to have never been taken, passed, given or issued in the eyes of the law. It directs the election commission of Pakistan to accordingly remove the name of the respondent (Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif) as President/Party Head from all relevant records.
The apex court had been hearing petitions against the Elections Act 2017 filed by the Pakistan Tereek-i-Insaf (PTI), Awami Muslim League’s leader Sheikh Rashid, PPP and others, since January 2018.
During the course of Wednesday’s hearing, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Rana Waqar told the apex court that the Constitution provides every citizen with the right to join or form a political party.
Waqar referred to Article 17 of the Constitution that concerns “freedom of association” and said that the second clause of the article specifically gives citizens the right to form or join a political party.
Justice Nisar, however, said that in Pakistan’s political setup, political parties are personality driven. Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan seconded the CJP’s statement, saying that political parties are a “one-man show”.
Rashid’s lawyer Farogh Naseem pointed out that Article 17(2) is “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan”.
He insisted that a person who violates Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution should not be allowed to lead a political party since it is a “matter of public leadership”.
Babar Awan, the counsel for PTI, another petitioner in the case, drew the court’s attention towards the upcoming Senate elections and said that a disqualified politician was handing out tickets for Senate candidates from the PML-N.
Referring to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s speech in the Parliament on Monday, Justice Nisar said that the judiciary had never called any politician a “thief”. Instead, the CJP said that he had praised the country’s leadership and added that he does not “owe anyone an explanation”.
Nawaz was disqualified by the apex court in the Panama Papers case last year under Article 62 of the Constitution for failing to declare a receivable salary as an asset.