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The Central Executive Committee of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Monday approved an amendment to the party’s constitution which allows a disqualified member of the Parliament to head the party. This has done away with a rather less stringent hurdle to reinstate former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif as the head of the PML-N. Nawaz Sharif, besides being disqualified from his premiership, was also made ineligible to be the head of his party by a unanimous decision in the Panama Case in July this year.

The meeting which was presided over by the acting president, Sardar Yaqoob, and attended by Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif took place at a time when Nawaz Sharif was making his second appearance in the anti-corruption court in relation to corruption references filed against him.

Read more: How Pakistani politics, civil society & bureaucracy promote corruption?

However, the stalwarts present in the meeting reposed their complete trust in the 67-year old Sharif and his leadership. The reverence for the disqualified lawmaker within the government and the party is evident as all including the Prime Minister meet, consult and defend him. As a matter of fact, ministers accompany him when he or his tainted children appear before accountability courts.

With Nawaz Sharif all-set to be re-elected as head of the ruling party, three questions come up. Democracy cannot function without accountability and constitutionalism; if anything, the two are the most important hallmarks of a true democracy.

The amendment is part of the efforts to ensure that Sharif becomes the dejure leader of the party. As things stand, a disqualified person cannot head a political party. However, the path was cleared when the upper house of the Parliament passed a bill which did away with the bar on a disqualified person from holding party office. The bill will be passed by the lower house owing to the majority that the ruling enjoys in the National Assembly.

With Nawaz Sharif all-set to be re-elected as head of the ruling party, three questions come up. Democracy cannot function without accountability and constitutionalism; if anything, the two are the most important hallmarks of a true democracy. It is questionable as to why any person punished for his violation of the Constitution is venerated, protected and deemed as a hero? It must be stressed that despite the tightening of the legal noose around Sharif, he still retains control over the party and government. Despite being disqualified to take part in politics, Sharif has been active, not only he nominated his successor, he is consulted, revered and is the defacto head of the party and the government. This raises questions about how the PML-N is impeding a democratic norm: accountability.

Read more: Arrest Warrants issued for Maryam, Hassan, Hussain & Capt Safdar

The second question pertains to how the Sharifs are the be-all and the end-all of the PML-N. While political parties are expected to be embodiments of democracy by devolving and distributing powers within the party, the PML-N is dominated by Sharif and his kith and kins. This inkles toward the concerns of those who call the PML-N a private limited company owned by the Sharif family.

The idea that any person under charges of corruption can continue to run a political party is unthinkable in democracies all around the globe. When lawmakers inside the Parliament and political parties cobble up to ostensibly save their skins instead of using their legal powers to devise laws to address issues of the people, the trust on the institution of the Parliament will be lost, something which democracy can ill-afford.

In a bid to retain more control over the government, the PML-N fielded Ms. Kulsoom Nawaz as the candidate for the all-important NA-120 seat, despite the fact that the former first lady is suffering from cancer. The nomination of Ms. Kulsoom instead of other dedicated members of the party and the domineering rule played by Maryam Nawaz in party affairs is another testament to how the Sharifs run the party. Even the intra-party power dynamics in the PML-N are contrary to the basic principles of democracy, something which the party claims to defend from the onslaught of anti-democratic forces.

The most important question that arises is how lawmakers use the Constitution. Legislators are elected to make actionable laws in the larger interests of the people. Eyebrows are raised when all unite to defend a person caught in the act by the highest court of law. Regardless of who launched Articles 62 and 63 in the Constitution, the fact remains that all lawmakers across the globe are expected to be honest and truthful; the articles are hardly Islamic as they are perceived to be. The Parliament has hardly expedited legislation for the general good of the people, thereby leaving little incentive for people to repose trust in the legislators and respect for the Constitution.

Read more: Will PML-N’s war of words against Army save Nawaz Sharif?

The idea that any person under charges of corruption can continue to run a political party is unthinkable in democracies all around the globe. When lawmakers inside the Parliament and political parties cobble up to ostensibly save their skins instead of using their legal powers to devise laws to address issues of the people, the trust on the institution of the Parliament will be lost, something which democracy can ill-afford.

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