Sheikh Rasheed escapes ineligibility

THE Supreme Court, on Wednesday, declared that Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Chief of Awami Muslim League, was eligible to contest polls, rejecting petition of his rival Shakeel Awan of PML (N) for his disqualification for mis-declaration of assets while filing nomination papers for 2013 general election. The three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, delivered its verdict with 2-1 majority, with Justice Qazi Faiz Isa proposing a wider course of action to determine the question of eligibility or ineligibility once for all.
We have been maintaining in these columns that political battles should be settled in the political field and issues should not be brought before other forums including the judiciary. However, some politicians especially Sheikh Rasheed himself has been filing petitions against rival politicians and leaders on an almost regular basis during the last several years. The tendency to clear way through judiciary is regrettable and must not be encouraged – neither by politicians nor the judiciary. It is good that Sheikh Rasheed is now free to contest the election and it would be people of his constituencies who would determine his fate. But the court verdict has also strengthened the general impression that there was no hard and fast law and rule to come to conclusion on similar issues and in similar circumstances. As pointed out by Justice Faiz Isa different benches of the same court authored conflicting judgements in similar cases, disqualifying some and sparing others. It was because of this trend that he suggested to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to constitute a full court comprising all judges of the apex court to decide seven questions he enumerated in his dissenting note. His plea that single criterion for judging eligibility of legislators should be evolved that needs to be considered by the Chief Justice. Though Sheikh Rasheed’s case has been decided but similar other cases might come up before the courts in respect of candidates and even winners of the 2018 general election. An across-the-board criterion would also dispel the impression and complaints of discrimination in some cases. As this involves the question of credibility and reputation of the institution of judiciary, there is every reason to discuss threadbare points raised by Justice Faiz Isa and determine a single criterion for the purpose.

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