Yasir Habib Khan
In a state of a complete quandary or a strategic move to vie for NA-120 by-election, PML-N has kept all cards close to its chest weighing up options with even unbelievable but possible one to re-field Nawaz Sharif, ousted prime minister capitalising legal gap in the Supreme Court’s Panama case verdict against him.
The spillover of options has come into play to prevent further brunt and minimise the damage that seems to be precursor of minus-one formula against party leadership. PML-N is desperate to keep Nawaz Sharif in the arena setting aside earlier decision to get elected Shehaz Sharif from NA-120. Party hawks have also been pleading the case of discounting other popular options of letting Maryam Nawaz or Kalsoom Nawaz to go for by-poll.
According to an insider, PML-N has been mulling over preference to let deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif to join cut-throat competition of NA-120 by-poll as majority of legal team in the party agrees that SC decision did not disqualify Nawaz Sharif for life. “His disqualification stood valid and came into effect merely till the day he was de-notified by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
On the smothering issue, jurist fraternity is also divided with divergent point of views. Such legal polarisation gives rise to validity of Nawaz’s re-election. Acclaimed lawyer AK Dogar said that Nawaz Sharif did not face life disqualification at all. Nawaz did not confront any legal bar to contest elections, he asserted
In his arguments, he said that former SC chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali disqualified PML-N MNA Justice (retd) Iftikhar Cheema on January 24, 2016 for concealing his assets. Election Commission de-notified him from his seat from Gujranwala-VII NA-101 constituency. “He resubmitted his nomination paper in next by-election. Election Commission accepted his papers and finally he won by-poll on March 23, 2016. Same rules apply on Nawaz Sharif and that is why he has a right to vie for NA-120,” he disclosed.
Known lawyer SM Zafar, who also represented Nawaz Sharif in various cases, claimed that SC verdict did not forbid former premier Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections saying loud and clear that it was not lifetime disqualification. In his opinion, he has been disqualified for present term of parliament and cannot vie for NA-120 by poll. “However, he stands qualified to contest upcoming general elections of 2018,” SM Zafar said. About Iftikhar Cheema’s precedent, he termed it legally irrelevant.
Former Sindh High Court chief justice Wajihuddin Ahmed said that Nawaz Sharif had lifetime disqualification. “Article 62 1 (f) does not determine any specific period and as per law when timeframe is not mentioned, conviction remains for life,” he clarifies. On a query, he said, ‘Whether Nawaz’s disqualification looks similar to Iftikhar Cheema case or not, it had to be examined under tribunal and SC decision under which latter got disqualified and then got reelected’. He said how it could be possible that a person declared corrupt could be declared Sadiq or Ameen after 5 years.
PML-N media coordinator Muhammad Mehdi revealed that party has been taking stock of the fielding Nawaz Sharif from NA-120 as most of party leaders and legal wizards had firm belief that disqualification terminated his parliamentary position as MNA and premiership and it had nothing to do with his reelection at any time.