ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday stated that “if a disqualified person can become a party head then he will make parliamentarian do things that he can’t do himself “and prayed to God that “don’t let it happen”.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, resumed the hearing of a case challenging Elections Act, 2017.
During hearing, CJP Nisar said that he will not accept a ‘crook’ heading a political party and ruling the country and prayed to the Almighty to not let that happen.
PML-N counsel Salam Akram Raja fighting the case on Nawaz’s behalf argued that a convict can only be punished for the offence he has committed but he does not get stripped of his other rights.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that “a corrupt party leader corrupts the entire structure of the party”, as he questioned the disqualified person’s moral authority to issue the Senate tickets, in an apparent reference to Nawaz Sharif.
“A corrupt party leader corrupts the entire structure of the party,” Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan remarked during the day’s proceedings. “A disqualified individual can gather 10 people, form a party and then use them [to further his agenda],” he remarked.
CJP Nisar said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi considered deposed PM Nawaz Sharif as his premier. “We are observing what value party head possesses,” he added.
Addressing the PML-N counsel, the bench pointed out lacunas in the act, saying: “Qualified people are being controlled by a disqualified person.”
Advocate Raja said the entire parliament must have taken notice of that. On which, the CJP said: “We are also taking notice … parliament has the prerogative of legislating the laws, however, these laws must not be invalid.”
“How can a person who has been punished [and disqualified] lead a party?” the judge asked Raja. However, Raja disagreed with Justice Ahsan’s assessment, arguing: “The issuance of Senate tickets by a disqualified individual does not corrupt the entire party. A disqualified person cannot come to parliament, but he can run the party.”
“By that logic, can a dacoit and the ringleader of a drug mafia or a person involved in serious crimes also become the leader of a political party?” the chief justice asked rhetorically.
During the hearing, the chief justice pointed out that the party ticket issued by PML-N to its new recruit, Mushahid Hussain, bore the signatures of Sharif, who was ousted from the office last year as part of the Panama Paper investigation.
At this, Raja said that the article 62, 63 of the Constitution pertains to disqualification and that the Election Act 2017 is not in conflict with the Constitution.
Raja told the court that anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela had also spent 27 years in jail, implying that his incarceration did not affect his ability to become the African National Congress and South Africa’s president.
“There were political cases on Mandela not criminal,” Justice Nisar reminded the counsel.
Referring to Sharif’s alleged contemptuous statements, the chief justice said: “Can an individual who has insulted the court become the president of a political party? Anyone who issues contemptuous statements cannot be loyal to the state.” Justice Ahsan said that any attack on court is a violation of Article 5 of the Constitution and could lead to action in accordance with Article 6. The chief justice, however, told Raja: “Your party could have some good people. We are not imposing Article 6 on you.”
The chief justice, upon being quoted a precedent from an Indian court by Raja, responded saying:
“This is not India, so don’t quote their legal examples here. They never quote our laws.”
Justice Nisar then explained that the verdicts by foreign supreme courts hold little value in Pakistan:
“The US Supreme Court permits the burning of flags, allows a convict to become party leaders and thinks that homosexuality is fine,” he stated, ostensibly giving examples of differences between the laws of the two countries.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial said: “When a person is disqualified, he is out of the parliament. Then how can such a person become the leader of other parliamentarians.”
The case’s hearing was adjourned till February 21.