THE ECP’s decision on what party office Ms Maryam Nawaz can and cannot legally hold could see considerable legal wrangling in the days to come.
Ruling on a complaint by some PTI politicians, the ECP has confirmed Ms Nawaz can remain vice president of the PML-N, but at the same time has banned her from playing a more active role in the party’s affairs.
The details of the verdict have been reserved but from what emerged in the media immediately after a short ruling was announced on Tuesday, the ECP apparently deems the position of vice president as ceremonial and of no consequence.
Having been convicted by a court of law, Ms Nawaz has been barred from holding any ‘functional’ office in the party. This means that she cannot take charge of the PML-N as its secretary or president or under any other title, even in a temporary ‘acting’ capacity.
As the first responses to the decision came in, it appeared there was still plenty of room for ambiguity and confusion. For instance, what would happen if a supposedly innocuous vice president of a political party were to suddenly wake up and insist on being more useful without undergoing a change of title? Perhaps the detailed judgement will shed some light on this question.
It is a decision where, prima facie, views from both the parties have been accommodated. Yet, it could be a source of discomfort for the ruling party as the decision may appear to go against the spirit of the PTI’s conquest-style politics that it has adopted in its avowed effort to root out corruption.
While, clearly, this ruling would put severe limits on Ms Nawaz should she emerge from the custody of NAB anytime soon, the government is obviously looking for even more ways to rein her in.
The PTI lawmakers behind the original appeal may soon challenge the ECP decision in court — a development that will duly feed the debate about the growing reliance of a certain school of politicians in the country on what some other parties call ‘outside’ support. The argument is that, instead of proving it is better than others on the basis of its performance in government, the PTI as a political party is just too eager to celebrate developments where its rivals are incapacitated because of court actions or other reasons.
Whether or not a convicted person can hold party office is a legal question that any citizen can raise. But the matter is bound to be viewed in a different context if PTI lawmakers show too much enthusiasm in pursuing the case and petitioning the ECP to remove Ms Nawaz from her post in the PML-N. Under more traditional rules, the task of deciding the fate of a convicted and maligned politician is best left to the people’s jury.
Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019