–Former PM believes his participation in the case may ‘prejudice’ proceedings
–Says taking part in election process is a fundamental right and therefore no perpetual disqualification can be imposed on someone by interpreting Article 62
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday asked how having a party chief who is not eligible to contest elections is in contradiction with the constitution, observing that the purpose of the Election Act 2017 was to reduce to the effect of disqualification.
The CJP made the observation as the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court (SC) resumed the hearing of petitions against Nawaz to become party head after his disqualification.
Barrister Farogh Naseem, representing Awami Muslim League (AML) Chairman Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, told the court that the law was brought only 17 days after Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification in the Panamagate case. To this, the court asked Naseem to explain how the act was in contradiction with the Constitution.
The counsel replied that according to Article 63-A of the Constitution, important powers were vested in the office of party chief, including disqualification of a legislator belonging to their party.
The party chief can also influence legislation and election of prime minister, Naseem argued, adding that the act would allow someone declared untruthful and untrustworthy by the courts to influence parliamentary business.
“According to you, party chief has a lot of powers,” Chief Justice Nisar remarked. Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that according to the counsel, the party chief would be a kingmaker of sorts and an untrustworthy and untruthful person will control Sadiq (truthful) and Ameen (trustworthy) legislators.
Naseem argued that it is the people’s fundamental right to be represented by honest people.
He said that Nawaz Sharif was unable to provide a money trail in Panama Papers case but was cut short by the CJP who said that the matter has been decided and should not be discussed further.
‘NAWAZ NOT INTERESTED IN BECOMING PARTY TO CASE’:
Azam Nazeer Tarar, the counsel for Nawaz Sharif, told the bench that the deposed prime minister is not interested to engage counsel in this matter because he feels that his party elected him as the head and it is a matter of PML-N and parliament to defend this law.
On the previous hearing held on January 31, Tarar had sought time to consult the party leadership. The court had granted the request and had adjourned the hearing to recommence on Feb 7.
Following Nawaz’s reply, the bench decided to proceed ex parte against Nawaz in this matter. They, however, offered that if the counsel desires, he may join the proceedings at any time.
In his reply the former PM stated that, had he been party to the original proceedings, he would have requested Justice Azmat Saeed Shaikh and Justice Ijazul Ahsan to recuse themselves from the bench “as they have already rendered a judgement regarding the issue of my qualification as a member of Parliament and have expressed their opinion about my person on a number of occasion, therefore it would be unfortunate if the were to again decide on the issues keeping my person in their view.”
Nawaz informed the court that he deliberated with party leadership and decided that his becoming party to the case which has been taken up “on the motion of many other aggrieved parties, having stakes in the issue, therefore my joining of the proceedings at this juncture before this bench may prejudice their cases.”
In conclusion Nawaz Sharif maintained that in his understanding “to take part in election process is a fundamental right and therefore no perpetual disqualification can be imposed on someone by interpreting Article 62 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.
He further added that “a time limit could have been provided by the Parliament but since it has not been done so, the issue of qualification under Article 62 is confined only to the election in question.”
“I being a strong proponent of democracy believe that it is the right of people of Pakistan to participate in the process of election and to reject or elect candidate(s) of their choice. They enjoy an inalienable right to elect their representatives through a true democratic process and not be given the list of selective people through the process of elimination.”
A number of major political parties including Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) challenged the Elections Reforms Act 2017, which paved the way for Nawaz to become party head again after his disqualification from political office under Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution.
THE ELECTION ACT 2017:
Following Nawaz’s disqualification as prime minister in July in the Panama Papers case, the ruling party managed to amend the Constitution to allow the former premier to retain his chairmanship of the PML-N.
As a result, the Elections Act 2017 was passed by Parliament bringing Nawaz back as the party president despite his disqualification from the National Assembly.
The law was challenged by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), among others. The petitions state that Nawaz’s appointment as party president is in direct violation of Clause 5 of the Political Parties Order 2002 and Article 17 of the Constitution.