ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday declared that the PML-N was ineligible to contest elections on the symbol of ‘lion’, in view of its failure to elect a new president within 45 days of Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case.

According to a notice issued by the ECP, the matter has been fixed for hearing at 10am on Oct 3.

The PML-N failed to hold elections for its president within 45 days of Mr Sharif’s disqualification as member of the National Assembly, it said. “... (T)herefore, the party is now not eligible to get a symbol. You are, therefore, required to appear before the Hon’ble Election Commission of Pakistan in person or through Counsel on the above-mentioned date and time in the Election Commission Secretariat,... failing which the matter will be decided in your absence,” said the notice sent to the PML-N’s acting secretary general, Ahsan Iqbal.

Party penalised over its failure to elect president within 45 days of Nawaz Sharif’s ouster

According to the party’s constitution, it was supposed to elect a president within 45 days of Mr Sharif’s ouster. The deadline passed on Sept 11.

Earlier in the day, the counsel for PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq submitted to the ECP that the commission had no jurisdiction to de-notify a political party.

A four-member bench of the commission was hearing identical petitions against Mr Sharif. In its written reply, the PML-N argued that “PML-N is not a name of a person but the name of one of the largest political parties [in the country]”.

The ECP will hear the case again on Oct 18.

Last month the commission issued a notice to the PML-N for the appointment of a new chief. It said in the notice that under the Political Parties Order 2002, a disqualified lawmaker could not hold any office in a political party.

The notification also referred to the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Panama Papers case, formally asking Mr Sharif to step down as prime minister. The electoral body asked the PML-N to elect a new party leader and inform the ECP.

However, the Election Bill 2017 that was recently passed by the Senate with amendments, if passed by the National Assembly as well, will entirely change the scenario as the relevant clause of the political parties order will be passed without the proviso that bars disqualified persons from holding party offices.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2017