Vawda’s disqualification

Published February 10, 2022

THE ECP’s decision disqualifying PTI Senator Faisal Vawda for life as a lawmaker for concealing his dual nationality while contesting the 2018 national election from Karachi shows that one can cheat the system once or twice, but not all the time. The chances of getting caught are ever-present.

Mr Vawda resigned from his National Assembly seat early last year when it became clear to him and his party that the Islamabad High Court would disqualify him for submitting a false affidavit to the election authorities regarding his American citizenship. He thought that he could avoid disqualification by quitting the National Assembly and shifting to the Senate.

His lawyers argued before the court that a dual nationality case against him was not valid after his election as senator. The court did not agree, however, and directed the ECP to proceed against the PTI leader under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution that sets out the moral qualifications of public representatives.

That his party and the prime minister, who had hailed the Supreme Court decision leading to the exit of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif under the same clause, helped the PTI loyalist avoid punishment by electing him to the Upper House is deplorable. Clearly, they had not thought that their actions could harm their public image when the opposition parties started flexing their muscles against the government.

That said, it must be emphasised that Mr Vawda’s disqualification from contesting polls for life — as in the case of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and estranged PTI leader Jehangir Khan Tareen — for violating a law pertaining to parliamentarians’ and civil servants’ moral standards, and that bars their election to parliament unless they are ‘sadiq’ (truthful)’ and ‘ameen’ (trustworthy), is a bit harsh.

Although the apex court ruled otherwise in 2017 in the Nawaz Sharif case, no punishment — whatever the offence is — should be ‘permanent’. The Supreme Court Bar Association president has already filed a petition with the apex court against the principle of lifetime disqualification of a lawmaker.

The ECP has also allowed Mr Vawda to move the Supreme Court against its decision, an opportunity that we expect him to avail. The SCBA plea provides an opportunity for not only a legal debate on the subject but also a larger one about the demands of democracy itself. Everybody is entitled to have a second chance in life and no law should deprive them of this opportunity.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2022

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