ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday announced the much-awaited verdict, ruling that disqualification of public representatives, including two high-profile political leaders – Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen – under Article 62(1)(f) is for life.
Sharif, 67, resigned in July last year after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding office over an undeclared source of income, but the veteran leader maintains his grip on the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
Today’s ruling addressed an ambiguity over Sharif’s disqualification and whether he was barred from office for life or a specific period.
A five-member bench of the top court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, had earlier on Feb 14 reserved the verdict on as many as 17 petitions seeking to determine the length of disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) – the provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified.
Other members of the bench were Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.
Justice Bandial authored the historic verdict, which included an additional note of Justice Saeed.
The bench held disqualification of a parliamentarian under the provision is permanent and will remain in force until another verdict comes in his or her favour or the disqualification verdict is stricken down.
The decision is of a major political significance that may alter the country’s political scene. It is much more important for many parliamentarians, including Nawaz Sharif, and former PTI Secretary General Jahangir Khan Tareen, who have been disqualified under the same provision.
During the course of hearing, the chief justice observed that the apex court would determine the time-period of parliamentarians’ disqualification.
PTI’s disqualified MNA Rai Hassan Nawaz’s counsel late Asma Jahangir while presenting her arguments asserted that the Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution is ambiguous as it is difficult to determine honesty and trustworthiness of an individual.
She then said the aforementioned article also did not state as which court is to issue declaration with regard to a person’s conduct and eligibility.
“The voters do not bring the questions of eligibility and qualification before casting their votes to an individual,” she asserted.
Ms Jahangir contended interpretation of ‘Pakistan’s ideology’ was a complex task with several ambiguities, besides it was the sole responsibility of the Parliament to deliberate on political matters rather than any other state institution.
To which, Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that the court couldn’t resolve questions merely based on assumptions.
Following the judge’s remarks, Jahangir asserted that fundamental rights to citizens are prime organ of the constitution. She then claimed that the parliament is not an independent body, the CJP disagreed and remarked that the notion was incorrect.
The CJP, however, conceded the existence of ambiguities in Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution. “It will be a difficult task to interpret the article,” he remarked.
On which, Justice Ijazul Ahsan suggested that the standards of ‘ideal persons’ [lawmakers] should be raised, while Justice Sajjad Ali proposed different set of standards for the lawmakers and an ordinary person.
Ms Jahangir then argued that nobody was declared eligible and ineligible for holding a public office before 1985. “Such ‘high-standard’ persons are unavailable in the country,” she responded.
The Chief Justice then inquired whether a dishonest person could contest by-election and for how long he or she should be declared disqualified.Also Read: Latest Election Poll Results
Jahangir responded that the disqualification sentence should be varied case to case and maximum period should be five years.
At which, the CJP ruled that it was the sole obligation of the top court to determine the duration of the disqualification period of a public representative.
The matter has attained immense significance in the backdrop of the disqualifications of thrice-elected premier Nawaz Sharif and PTI political heavyweight Jahangir Tareen, because its outcome will decide their political future.
It will also put the controversy surrounding the period for disqualification of a member of parliament to rest once and for all.
Sharif and Tareen disqualified
Sharif and Jahangir Tareen were disqualified under the Article 62(1)(f) for lifetime for being dishonest.
On July 28, last year, the apex court disqualified Sharif from office on the ground that he did not disclose a salary from his son’s Dubai-based company – the money Sharif says he never received.
On December 15, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, a three-judge bench disqualified PTI leader Tareen under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution for deliberately submitting a false statement in the Supreme Court to conceal his property in the United Kingdom.
What is Article 62?
Article 62(1)(f) reads: “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora [Parliament] unless-…he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law.”