ISLAMABAD: The possible conviction of the prime minister in a contempt of court case cannot be pardoned by the president as he cannot waive the conviction of a person. However, the Constitution empowers him to pardon the sentence handed down by a court in a contempt of court case, constitutional experts say.
The conviction of any parliamentarian on contempt of court charges by the Supreme Court would instantly mean disqualification for at least five years to hold an elected office.
President Asif Ali Zardari has the constitutional power to quickly pardon any such sentence under the Constitution, but the conviction, which would attract disqualification, would remain in place for five years, implying that they cannot contest election to National Assembly or a provincial assembly or Senate for that period.
Their ineligibility from being elected or chosen as and from being a federal or provincial legislator will go after five years. As per clause ‘g’ of Article 63 of the Constitution inserted by the 18th Amendment in April 2010, anybody sentenced for defaming the judiciary, including the contempt of court, will become qualified to vie for an elected office five years after the completion of his imprisonment term.
The clause reads: “A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as and from being a member of Parliament, if (g) he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for propagating any opinion or acting, in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.”
However, under Article 45, the president has the power to pardon anyone convicted on the contempt charge as he did in the case of Interior Minister Rehman Malik when his three-year sentence, awarded by an accountability court, was upheld by the Lahore High Court. Malik filed an appeal against his conviction in the Supreme Court and the issue is pending.
The Article 45 says the president shall have the power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.
Justice (retd) Wajhiuddin Ahmed, when approached by The News, said that the president can waive the sentence but the conviction always remains there. He mentioned that the disqualification of a parliamentarian, whosoever he is, is done on the basis of conviction and not the sentence and, therefore, the prime minister, if convicted, would be disqualified even if the president pardons his sentence. He said that disqualification would end after five years as per Article 63 (g).
He said that in the case of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court against the conviction.
Under Article 63 (g), the life ban on six Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders — Akhtar Rasool, Mian Mohammad Munir, Akhtar Mehmood, Sardar Nasim, Chaudhry Tanvir and TV figure Tariq Aziz — to contest an elected office for having been convicted for storming the Supreme Court in 1997 has also gone — courtesy the 18th Amendment.
All of them were either MNAs or MPAs before their conviction. The storming took place at the height of the confrontation between the second Nawaz Sharif government and the-then Supreme Court Chief Justice, Sajjad Ali Shah. As a result of the ban, these contemnors could not contest the 2002 and 2008 general elections as well as two local council polls.