Determination of disqualification period
Court orders must to put Nawaz, Maryam, Safdar on ECL: Ministry
A five member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday reserved its verdict in the case determining whether disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution is for life or time-specific.
The verdict was reserved after Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf completed his arguments.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali argued the that in some instances, the stigma of disqualification of lawmakers continues even after their death. He said further that the declaration of disqualification by the court cannot end on its own, adding that Parliament should be left to decide the duration of a lawmaker’s disqualification.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the relevant forum and court can remove the stain of disqualification, adding that until then, the disqualification will continue.
Moreover, the court observed that the disqualification will continue for as long as the declaration (signed by electoral candidates declaring them honest) holds, adding that the 18th Amendment, passed in 2010, did not determine a time period for disqualification.
During the hearing, when the chief justice asked if the declaration of honesty expires on its own after some time, he was told that it doesn’t.
“If a crime has been committed, the provision applies for life,” Justice Ejazul Ahsan said.
“If the time has not been determined for the disqualification, does it mean the subject has been disqualified for life?” Justice Nisar asked.
“The parliament will have to look into that,” the Attorney General replied.
“The Constitution does not determine the length of the disqualification period under Article 62(1)(f),” Ausaf said in his concluding arguments, adding that the court would have to look into the matter on a case to case basis.
Article 62(1)(f), which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be “sadiq and ameen” (honest and righteous). It is the same provision under which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by a five-judge SC bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on July 28, 2017 in the Panama Papers case. Likewise, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified on Dec 15 last year by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.
Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday requested the Ministry of Interior to place five of the Sharif family members, including deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, on the Exit Control List.
The development came a day after the Sharif family filed an application with the accountability court, seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal attendance from February 19 onwards on the grounds that the former First Lady’s treatment is in the final stages and the family needed to be with her in London.
Those included in the list forwarded to the interior ministry were former PM Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz, and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar.
Nawaz Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain, are already abroad and NAB has stated in the letter that “the accused persons have been declared proclaimed offenders by the trial court and in case they return to Pakistan they will be arrested on arrival for the production before the court for finalisation of the cases against them”.
While, according to the ‘ECL placement performa’ filled out for Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and Safdar, NAB has mentioned that “in compliance with the Supreme Court orders dated July 28, 2017, investigations on the allegations of corruption, corrupt practices, and amassing assets beyond means against the accused were conducted and references are pending before accountability court, while the accused person did not join the proceedings against them at NAB despite service of summons. There is every likelihood that they can flee abroad to avoid the process of law”.
In February, NAB had issued summons for the deposed PM Nawaz Sharif and others, directing them to appear before NAB Rawalpindi on February 10 to record statements in a bid to complete the legal formality before filing two supplementary references.
However, Sharif and others did not appear before the bureau and now NAB has stated the same reason for placing Nawaz Sharif and his family members’ names on the ECL.
Meanwhile, Interior ministry has responded to National Accountability Bureau’s request to list former premier Nawaz Sharif, daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (r) Safdar in Exit Control List stating that inclusions are done only on courts’ orders.
A press release issued by the ministry stated that NAB’s request could not be entertained until a court orders for it.
While giving a statement over the issue to a news channel, interior minister Ahsan Iqbal who is visiting Norway, said that a decision would be taken after his return and it would be in accordance with the law.
State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry said that no one can be barred from leaving the country without a reason, according to the Constitution of Pakistan.
Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif has been attending all court hearings. Had there been an issue, the court would have directed for such action, he added.
Chaudhry further said that the issue would be reviewed to see if it aims to target a person or is permitted by the law.
Interior ministry’s response has come hours after NAB wrote to the department to have the three accused in corruption references listed in ECL on alleged possibility of fleeing the country ahead of accountability court’s verdict.