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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Khawaja Asif back in business, Nawaz still on the sidelines

News Analysis |

In an unexpected turn of events, the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan has repealed the disqualification of the former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif under the Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. A three-member SC bench on Friday, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial announced its decision on the May 2 appeal by Asif over his disqualification by the Islamabad High Court (IHC). The detailed decision has not been announced but the court has granted him permission to contest in the upcoming 25th July elections.

On 26th April 2018, the IHC had disqualified Asif over his failure to disclose his UAE iqama to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He was disqualified over Article 62(1)(f) which is one of the preconditions for membership of the parliament of Pakistan. The court declared him not to be sadiq and ameen for not declaring his total assets. The petition was filed by Usman Dar of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The court observed that it would be unfair to disqualify someone for failing to quantify their assets when they have declared the source of their income. After the SC decision was announced, Usman Dar of PTI congratulated Khawaja Asif and repeated the old mantra of its rivals that he will now compete with him in the people’s court.

Khawaja Asif was not the only victim of the notorious article’s sword. Former premier Nawaz Sharif and PTI general secretary Jahangir Tareen also fell victim to the same clauses of the constitution but their appeals were dismissed and their requests rejected. Legal experts believe that despite being disqualified over the same clause, the cases of Khawaja Asif, Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen were fundamentally different. The earlier was disqualified over ambiguity in the disclosure of assets while the latter two were disqualified over concealing their assets.

Another major difference that some political observers point out is that all the earlier disqualifications under Article 62 were made by the SC itself while in Khawaja Asif’s case; it was made by the IHC, an institute which falls lower in the hierarchy than the SC. Some even suspect that a sensitive matter like disqualification of political leaders is something that the SC wants to keep entirely as its own prerogative. If the lower courts start disqualifying candidates on their own, the whole political landscape of Pakistan will be distorted.

Read more: Senior PML-N leader Khawaja Asif disqualified for life by IHC

The ‘Quaid’ of the PML-N is not ready to raise the white flag in his battle against the judicio-military status quo. Despite being labeled as a traitor in both the Pakistani and Indian media after his statement about the Mumbai attack, Nawaz Sharif is adamant that he is on the right track, and that the judiciary and military have joined hands to kick him out of the country’s political scenario. Signs of cracks within the PML-N were evident in the past but now that the party’s new leader has chosen to avoid the politics of confrontation, Nawaz is starting to become increasingly isolated.

Khawaja Asif is considered to be one of the oldest and closest aides of Nawaz Sharif. After disqualification by the IHC, both of them also shared the bond of mutual victimhood but now that Asif has been absolved and exonerated by the SC, he’ll have little incentive to continue attacking them verbally. He’ll have even less incentive to support Nawaz’s stance, knowing that it could cost him severely in the upcoming general elections, and to every politician, winning in the elections is the prime goal for political survival. Most experts believe that it is only a matter of time till the PML-N formally parts way with Nawaz and his daughter if they continue on their path of confrontation.