News Analysis |
The Supreme Court (SC) decision to bar ousted ex-Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif to lead the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) is another huge blow to the beleaguered leader. In a landmark judgment, the SC of Pakistan ruled that a disqualified person cannot lead a political party.
This historic decision certainly has implications not only for Nawaz but for anyone declared unworthy to rule from any political party Article 62(1)(f). Confrontational attitude is not the answer. Targeting the judiciary personally in a derogative way has been a norm since disqualification as the father-daughter duo continued their rhetoric across Pakistan condemning the judiciary on punishing them on the behest of the establishment.
Mannerisms, body language and attitude of the Sharif family remained extremely questionable and proved to be a zero-sum game for them at least legally. Such harsh criticism of the judiciary took them nowhere but to further create hurdles for themselves.
Maryam Nawaz may be surprised on the wisdom of the judiciary as she fails to understand that the right to interpret the Constitution lies with the SC, and the right to play the victim card stays with Nawaz.
Nawaz was traveling all over Pakistan reaching out to the public and sharing his painful ousting story and hoped to convince people of his innocence. The outcome of many by-elections consolidated his popularity among the masses and people sympathized with him exactly the way he wanted. But, his efforts to give a befitting reply to the judiciary and use the parliament to install himself as a party chief backfired.
Read more: What’s behind the Sharifs’ trip to Saudi?
The shambolic reforms under ‘Election Act of 2017’, any person convicted or disqualified by courts in Pakistan can aspire to control large political parties, and can effectively control the parliamentary conduct of elected Members of Parliament. It effectively means that despite being declared dishonest, after this legislation, any criminal can influence decision making inside the parliament in many ways.
The apex court should take the responsibility to check if any particular act of the parliament is contradicting the Constitution and rule of law. Across the border though in 2013, the Supreme Court of India made a landmark decision to ban politicians with criminal records from contesting elections for life.
This week, SC of India was also of the view that a person convicted in a criminal case is not just barred from contesting elections but also cannot be allowed to head or form a political party. Chief justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said, “[a] criminal deciding who the people should vote for by itself goes against the basic tenet of democracy.”
Such bold steps could stop the parliament from transforming into an institution that takes dictation from an alleged criminal. It was precisely the case in Pakistan, where Nawaz under investigation for corruption and money laundering lead the biggest political party in the country. In an attempt to reinforce its authority, Nawaz became the biggest danger to democracy and chose a confrontational path.
Nawaz gets relief in the above mentioned case and is convicted in the accountability references, the SC will not have to determine the time-period of disqualification and he will be automatically disallowed to hold any public office for at least five-year minimum by law.
Using the parliament to go on the confrontational path could have been beneficial if Nawaz was successful in intimidating the judiciary under relentless pressure. They [judiciary] never choked and followed the Constitution. The judiciary knew the parliament threatened democracy in the country and proved a major peril to the system. This was the precise reason why de facto PM Nawaz was unacceptable.
Now the Question arises, What does the future hold for Nawaz?
Maryam Nawaz tweeted that, “this verdict did nothing but reinforce Nawaz Sharif’s narrative”. She questioned if this decision would make the party stop accepting Nawaz Sharif as the leader? Similar sentiments were shown by other senior leaders of the party who declared Nawaz a leader for life.
Surely, Nawaz will continue to work as the de facto party head as he was declared the ‘PM of hearts’ after disqualification. He still enjoys mass support among the public and will even cash in more after dismissal as the party head.
Nawaz will have influence over his party despite being removed as party chief and will follow the design of Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder Altaf Hussain who neither held any party position nor signed the Senate nomination papers but took all party decisions.
This decision will determine Nawaz’s fate as the party head. Currently, the judgments of former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry are in force that state that disqualification under the article is for life.
In hindsight, the SC of Pakistan has given another favor to Nawaz, which is reflected in Maryam’s choice of words. As Nawaz was successful in engaging people after his first disqualification, the developing situation will further augment his initial rhetoric. What can really transform the scenario altogether is the pending case in the SC and references in accountability court.
The case in the SC is about the determination of time-period of disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. The SC is yet to decide if the disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) is perpetual or time specific. This decision will determine Nawaz’s fate as the party head. Currently, the judgments of former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry are in force that state that disqualification under the article is for life.
On the other hand, assuming if Nawaz gets relief in the above mentioned case and is convicted in the accountability references, the SC will not have to determine the time-period of disqualification and he will be automatically disallowed to hold any public office for at least five-year minimum by law.
Maryam Nawaz may be surprised on the wisdom of the judiciary as she fails to understand that the right to interpret the Constitution lies with the SC, and the right to play the victim card stays with Nawaz. Whether Nawaz lets the political situation progress as it is or indulges in another narcissistic gameplay remains to be seen.