ISLAMABAD: While the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) believes lifetime disqualification of a lawmaker for defection from their political party, being a penal measure, should be left with their constituency to decide, the Pakistan Peoples Party has argued that the presidential reference on Article 63-A is against fundamental rights as it also seeks to take away the right of appeal provided by Article 63(5).

The opposition parties have submitted their written comments before the Sup­reme Court in response to the direction of the SC bench, headed by Chief Jus­tice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, hearing the presidential reference along with a petition of the Sup­reme Court Bar Association (SCBA) against the government’s alleged ‘intention’ to stop lawmakers from voting on the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Senator Kamran Murtaza, in the reply filed on behalf of the JUI-F, apprised the apex court that severe consequences such as lifetime disqualifications for defections from party under Article 63-A of the Constitution ‘without vote count’ would undermine the already weak democracy.

The JUI-F was of the opinion that any court decision on the controversial reference would erode the supremacy of parliament, and therefore the top court should hold that the present reference was beyond the scope of Article 186 of Constitution and an attempt to undermine the parliament hence be returned unanswered.

However, the opposition party also argued if a situation under Article 63A of the Constitution arises, where the party head tells the MNAs to vote, but some members abstain from voting, then should the NA Speaker be empowered to count their vote even though MNAs chose not to vote. Similarly, the JUI-F wondered, if the Speaker, after “counting votes” of the MNAs who “refused to vote”, disqualify them for life. In its opinion, the opposition party said such situation would lead to absurd and flawed interpretations.

The JUI-F stated opinions were to be sought about issues where there was no clarity on law on the issue. The party also suggested to the apex court that opinions sought did not have to be necessarily answered to the president within a “certain timeframe”.

According to the JUI-F, as the no-confidence motion is pending and if there is an apprehension of defection, then the matter will likely reach the Supreme Court being the appellate body under Article 63A(5) of Constitution. Thus giving an opinion that too without examining the facts of each case will make the forum of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) completely redundant.

The JUI-F regretted that the president wants this court to go beyond its jurisdiction and to put on the robes of the legislature to create law regarding the no-confidence motion as per the wishes of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf only.

Meanwhile, PPPP through Senator Farooq H. Naek regretted that National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser had been attending meetings of the core committees of the ruling PTI, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, with alleged mala fide intent and thus becoming part of political process of the ruling party in “violation of his oath and provisions of Constitution”.

Thus, Speaker Qaiser by violating Article 54 of the Constitution was allegedly subverting Article 54(3) and Article 95 of Constitution and Rule 37 of the Rules of National Assembly and obstructing members of National Assembly from discharging their constitutional and parliamentary duties and responsibilities and thus committing “high treason” as defined in Article 6 of the Constitution.

It regretted that the speaker in violation of the Constitution also abdicated powers conferred on him to the political party to which he belongs.

In its reply on the presidential reference, the PPP explained that Pakistan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and therefore it is not only the constitutional duty of the state organs to ensure enforcement of fundamental rights but they are also under an obligation to refuse to abide by or implement directives which “place hurdles or embargo on exercise of civil and political freedom”.

It mentioned that all citizens had a right to liberty, movement and security under Article 4 and the MNAs, too, had an inviolable right to be dealt with in accordance with law and under Article 14 of the Constitution that says “dignity of man is inviolable”.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2022

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