News Desk |
A three-member Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar has disqualified Nawaz Sharif as the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The court had earlier taken a petition challenging the Election Act 2017 which allowed Nawaz Sharif to become the party head. The petition had asserted that a dishonest person cannot become the head of a political party.
Nawaz Sharif was disqualified as the prime minister of Pakistan by the SC in its landmark 28th July 2017 Panama Papers verdict under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of Pakistan. Article 62 sets the qualification criteria for a person to become a member of the Parliament while the clause (1)(f) demands that a person should be honest to become a member of the parliament.
Elections Act 2017 was approved by the parliament which allows a disqualified person under Article 62 and 63 to become head of a political party. The amendment allowed Nawaz Sharif to become the head of his party PML-N once again. PTI, Sheikh Rasheed’s AML and PPP filed a petition in the SC against the amendment and argued that it was unconstitutional.
The SC declared that a person disqualified under Article 62, 63 cannot become the head of a political party since a political party contests in elections and a disqualified person cannot lead eligible people. The decision has widespread consequences for the ruling PML-N. Any decision made by Nawaz Sharif as the head of the PML-N has been declared null and void.
…every decision made by the former PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif after the 28th July 2017 verdict will be considered null and void.
The decisions include the formation of the parliamentary committee for the nomination of candidates in the Senate elections, granting of a ticket to the candidate who won the Lodhran by-elections in February 2018 and others. Timely conduct of Senate elections seems highly unlikely now. Senior politicians like Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Qamar Zaman Qaira also believe that Senate elections might not take place on time after this decision.
The last date for submission of nomination papers for Senate elections was 8th February; the date for withdrawal of submission papers was 19th February which has also passed. It is also speculated in media circles that the decision of the Lodhran elections might be overturned and the by-elections might be held again.
Senior analysts Arif Hameed Bhatti predicted that a meeting of the senior leadership of PML-N was called at Raiwind immediately after the announcement of the decision. Legal expert Justice (retd) Shaiq Usmani said that every decision made by the former PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif after the 28th July 2017 verdict will be considered null and void. He also said that the SC might provide a solution to the predicament of the Senate elections.
“He is our leader and we don’t need a court decision to obey our leader”, Sanaullah proudly announced.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah while speaking to a private news channel said that he cannot analyze the decision without going into the details but asserted that legislation is the right of the parliament; the SC can interpret the law made by the constitution but not revoke it. He expressed his hope that Senate elections were not in danger but the decision will have retrospective effect.
“The Senate candidates can compete as independent candidates,” Sanaullah negated the possibility of a delay in the election. “He is our leader and we don’t need a court decision to obey our leader”, Sanaullah proudly announced. However, it is suspected that there might be a mutiny inside the party after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as the party head and if PML-N candidates contest independently, it is not sure whether they’ll obey the party policy and stay loyal or not.
Nawaz’s hold on PML-N had been jeopardized and challenged after the Panama Paper’s decision. If it were not the case, he would not have made so much effort to stay as the party head. He was disqualified on 28th July 2017 and became the party head again in August 2017. It shows that Nawaz was insecure and didn’t trust other power heads in the party. It appeared that to influence party decisions, one had to be in a position of power within the party.
Pakistani politics, especially in Punjab is about power. Media sources might describe public opinion and popularity as important factors for being a leader but power perception matters; in the public and within the party. For Nawaz, it was important to appear powerful. An aura of power was important to control the cabinet and PML-N in general. An impression was created by Nawaz that he was an intimidating figure for the judiciary and the military but his failure to subdue the judiciary has destroyed that illusion.
It is yet to be revealed whether courts will place a gag order that Nawaz’s speech should not be conveyed on electronic media. Sense of direction of the judiciary appears to be very clear since, despite all the rhetoric and power shows by Nawaz, they gave the verdict against him. It is becoming clear that Nawaz knew what was coming for him in the Elections Act 2017 amendment case as he was trying to ward off the opposition.
A new powerhouse is expected to emerge in PML-N. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar are expected to take over from the spoils of the SC decision. The question to be raised is whether Punjab government will still be spending millions of rupees to fund Nawaz Sharif’s jalsas? While lip service will still be paid to Nawaz Sharif, the secondary power centers in the party will adopt more autonomy in their decisions.