Second disqualification of Nawaz Sharif

THE Supreme Court has delivered another judgement that is being interpreted in two ways – some terming it as beginning of setting the course of country’s history on right track while others apprehending confrontation between State institutions. A three-member Bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar, on Wednesday, announced short verdict on petitions challenging the Elections Act 2017, ruling that a person disqualified under Article 62 and 63 can’t serve as head of a political party. The judgement is considered as another setback to the ruling PML-N as Nawaz Sharif no longer remains party president. Another stunning aspect of the verdict was that it declared null and void all decisions taken by Mian Nawaz Sharif as President of the party, which could trigger legal and political crises and that too at a time when the country was moving towards general election that needed to be held in a peaceful and transparent environment.
The ambiguity left by the order in respect of actions taken by MNS as President of the party is being seen by many as a political dividend for opponents and rivals of PML (N). As the bench did not deem it appropriate to clarify the situation, some opposition parties and their counsels were quick to conclude that Senate nominations by MNS stood nullified and questions are also being raised about election of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as Prime Minister following his nomination by Mian Nawaz Sharif and issuance of tickets by him for three bye-elections. The silence of the judgement in this regard is viewed as strange and indigestible by some legal luminaries who quote unending past practices when consequences of a nullified act were legitimised as past and closed transactions. This was logical by the common sense as well because Nawaz Sharif became President of the party under a clause of the Act that has been passed by the two houses of Parliament.
Similarly, all those issued party tickets for bye-elections as well as for election of the Senate were declared and notified by the Election Commission of Pakistan as ‘validly nominated candidates’ along with other candidates. This flaw in the judgement sends wrong signals to the aggrieved party. How a party with two-third majority can be left out of the electoral process for Senate on technical grounds, denting the very credibility of the process? It is duty of the Election Commission to ensure ‘fair’ election and there would be no fairness if parliamentarians of the largest party were deprived of their right to vote. Legal experts say the court would make things clear in detailed judgement but there is little time left for Senate election and ambiguity must have been cleared in the short order. The Panama verdict declared Mian Nawaz Sharif ineligible for parliamentary politics and now he has been banned to do party politics. It would be premature to say whether the latest judgement would cause a nosedive in the popularity of PML (N) ahead of general election and split in the party.
However, what happened in the aftermath of Panama judgement is an indication that the verdict would give further boost to the narrative being promoted by PML (N) that it was being victimised to benefit its political opponents. If many political pundits are to be believed then Mian Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz would be behind bars in coming weeks, when verdict is given in references against them, yet party rank and file strongly asserts that irrespective of court verdicts and his removal from the parliamentary and political scene, Nawaz Sharif would remain their true leader. The spectre of split in the party can be averted by taking a prompt decision within the party to elect Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif as party president. There is also a view that instead of striking down the clause, the court should have referred it back to Parliament for reconsideration for the sake of harmonious relationship between state institutions. Statements and counter-statements and actions and reactions are bound to spell havoc with the system as they add to prevailing confusion and instability.

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