Vawda’s reprieve

Published November 27, 2022

FAISAL Vawda should be relieved. After years of running from a reckoning for submitting a false declaration in his nomination papers ahead of the 2018 general elections, he has avoided permanent disbarment from politics thanks to the Supreme Court’s largesse. It may be recalled that Mr Vawda had been a US citizen when he applied to become a Pakistani lawmaker, and it was not until his nomination papers were accepted that his US citizenship was formally revoked. Pakistani lawmakers are not allowed to hold any other nationality if they wish to be considered eligible to participate in elections, and two others — Haroon Akhtar and Saadia Abbasi — had been disqualified for the same reasons back in 2018. It, therefore, came as no surprise when, earlier this year, the ECP took a dim view of Mr Vawda’s ‘misrepresented’ credentials, de-seated him, and disqualified him for life under Article 62(1)(f) for not being ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’. However, the apex court on Friday revoked Mr Vawda’s lifetime disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) after having him tender an apology for ‘misstating’ his nationality and resigning from his Senate seat. He is quite lucky to have convinced the judges, considering how much time he spent avoiding the courts since the disqualification reference was first brought against him in 2020. However recently, the Supreme Court made it clear that it did not consider the ECP qualified to make a judgement under Article 62(1)(f) as it is not a court of law. On separate occasions, the chief justice also described Article 62(1)(f) as ‘draconian’. It is, at the moment, unclear whether the Supreme Court is in the process of a broader reconsideration of the application of Article 62(1)(f) or whether Mr Vawda’s case is to be considered a stand-alone matter.

Mr Vawda has avoided court proceedings under Article 62(1)(f) only because he was given a chance to apologise; otherwise, the evidence stacked against him seemed quite damning. However, other politicians who have been disqualified under 62(1)(f) were not as lucky. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif recently complained about five years of his life being ‘wasted’ because the apex court had disqualified him under the same article and later deemed his disqualification for life even though the Constitution itself carried no such provision. To dispel the impression of arbitrariness, the Supreme Court must elaborate on whether it is taking a new position and provide some clarity on the matter.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2022

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