ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday reserved its verdict on whether Maryam Nawaz is qualified to hold office of vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz or otherwise and said it will announce the ruling on Tuesday (today).
It was for the second time the ECP reserved its judgement in the case. It had first reserved it on Aug 1 and had set Aug 27 as the date for its pronouncement. But in an unusual move, the commission deferred the judgement, asking the counsel for both sides to assist it on whether or not the bar on a convict from holding office of the president of a political party also applies to the vice president, in the light of a recent judgement of the Supreme Court.
Appearing before a three-member bench of the commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza on Monday, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s counsel Hassan Maan argued that Section 203 of the Elections Act should be read with Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Alluding to the Jehangir Tareen case, he said a PTI lawmaker from Punjab lost his party position on the basis of the same principle which barred disqualified leaders from holding any party office.
The PML-N lawyer, on the other hand, said some political parties were headed by their presidents while the others by chairmen or emir. He said the persons having authority mattered, pointing out that vice presidents did not have any power.
He said the Supreme Court’s judgement also specifically mentioned party heads and asked the ECP to dismiss the petition filed by the PTI lawmakers.
On May 3, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif had approved the appointment of Maryam Nawaz as one of the party’s vice presidents, besides his son Hamza Shahbaz.
Later, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said that the PTI was considering challenging the PML-N’s decision to appoint a convict to a party post.
On May 9, PTI lawmakers Barrister Malika Bukhari, Farrukh Habib, Kanwal Shauzab and Javeria Zafar filed a petition, saying Ms Maryam’s appointment was against the law. The petitioners also said that the PML-N leader had been declared disqualified for any political or public office.
In its judgement on the Avenfield apartments reference, an accountability court had sentenced Nawaz Sharif to rigorous imprisonment of 10 years, Ms Maryam to seven years and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar to one year.
The accused were also disqualified from contesting election or holding public office for 10 years to be reckoned from the date they are released after serving the sentence and they shall not be allowed to apply for or to be granted or allowed any financial facilities in the form of a loan for 10 years from the date of their conviction within the meaning of Section 15 of National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
On Sept 19 last year, the Islamabad High Court suspended the NAB court’s decision in the Avenfield reference.
The IHC division bench that ordered suspension till the final judgment comprised Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Gul Hasan Aurangzeb.
Subsequently, the National Accountability Bureau challenged the suspension, but the Supreme Court dismissed its plea.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019