Sheikh Rashid Ahmed requested the court to start hearing his appeal on Nov 8.
Sheikh Rashid Ahmed requested the court to start hearing his appeal on Nov 8.

ISLAMABAD: The chief of the Awami Muslim League (AML), Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, on Saturday requested the Supreme Court to take up his appeal against the decision of its office to return his petition that challenged the Elections Act, 2017, under which a disqualified parliamentarian might hold any party office.

Mr Ahmed had earlier challenged the Elections Act, 2017, seeking its annulment as well as a declaration that the re-election of Nawaz Sharif as PML-N president was unlawful and of no legal effect. But the court’s office returned the petition on Oct 10 against which he instituted an appeal to be taken up by a judge in his chambers.

Through another application filed under Order 33, Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980, the AML chief has pleaded before the apex court that his petition was maintainable as it dealt with enforcement of the fundamental rights of the public at large.

The matter was of grave urgency, said the applicant, because the longer Mr Sharif (a person otherwise disqualified by the court) remained the head of the PML-N the longer he would be able to control a number of parliamentarians who were members of the Senate, National Assembly and the provincial assemblies and who in turn would be taking decisions for the entire country.

Mr Ahmed requested the court to fix his appeal preferably on Nov 8, otherwise immense loss, damage and adversity would be caused to him as well as the people at large, according to him.

In his original petition, which was filed through senior counsel Dr Farogh Naseem, he had sought a restraining order against Mr Sharif from acting as an office-bearer or a head of the PML-N and urged the court to suspend his election till the time the petition remained pending before the court.

The petition argued that the amendments in the law were mala fide and unconstitutional as they were introduced to accommodate only one person — Mr Sharif, who had already been disqualified by the Supreme Court under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

The petition argued that the citizens of Pakistan had the right to join any political party, including the PML-N, but this right would be completely jeopardised if the party was headed by a disqualified person.

The petitioner and the people at large derived a fundamental vested right that none who was disqualified under the Constitution by a court of law should control parliamentarians in the National Assembly, Senate and provincial assemblies of Pakistan, the petition argued.

Therefore, any interpretation that despite a declaration by a court that Mr Sharif was not qualified to be a parliamentarian, he could still become the head of PML-N would be considered to be in violation of the fundamental rights of freedom of association entrenched in Article 17 of the Constitution, as also the fundamental right of life found under Articles 9, 10-A and 14 of the Constitution.

Even otherwise, the act aimed to make Mr Sharif chief of the PML-N was against Articles 62, 63 and 189 of the Constitution and unless the court extended immediate judicial interference grave prejudice would be caused to the petitioner and the people at large, said the petition.

The Elections Act, 2017 was also un-Islamic and unconstitutional as it had reduced the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat averment from an oath to a mere declaration, which militated against Articles 2-A and 227 of the Constitution, the petition argued.

It added that the entire law was void and ultra vires of the law and the Constitution because in the Senate the same was passed in violation of the mandatory codal procedures.

The petition pleaded before the court that sections 203 and 232 of the law be declared unconstitutional and the deletion of the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath through the act be held completely without jurisdiction, unconstitutional, mala fide, void ab initio and of no legal effect.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2017

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