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February 15, 2018

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Can a thief preside over party: CJP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on the petitions seeking interpretation and determination of length of disqualification of lawmakers in the available provisions of the Constitution as well as election laws, observing that if a crime has been committed, the provision applies for life.

A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah reserved the judgment in 13 identical pleas, seeking determination of length of disqualification.

The court reserved the judgment after hearing the arguments of Attorney General Ashter Ausaf. The attorney general submitted that the parliament, being the supreme lawmaking body, can determine the length of time for disqualification of parliamentarians. He submitted that neither there is a time-frame given for disqualification in Article 62(1)(f) nor there is any mechanism that may revisit the declaration of the court, hence the declaration of the court for disqualification will remain in the field until the parliament legislates in this regard.

Justice Umar Atta Bandial remarked that it had been proposed that there should be some proportionality in the sentence awarded under the provision of Article 62. "Can a thief or member of a drug mafia become the head of a party?" the chief justice asked during the hearing.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan wondered how a person disqualified by the court over not being Sadiq and Ameen and who could not be elected as a member of parliament become a party's head. Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that if a crime has been committed, the provision applies for life.

Justice Saqib Nisar asked if the time has not been determined for the disqualification, does it mean the subject has been disqualified for life. It is pertinent to mention here that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, while submitting his reply in the instant matter, had said that to take part in the elections process is a fundamental right and therefore no perpetual disqualification can be imposed on someone by interpreting the Article 62 of the Constitution. He had contended that a time limit could have been provided by the parliament, but since it has not done so, the issue of qualification under Article 62 is confined only to the election in question.

“I, being a strong proponent of democracy, believe that it is the right of the people of Pakistan to participate in the election process and to reject or elect candidates of their choice,” the former prime minister had told the court.

On Wednesday, when the court reserved the judgment, the chief justice inquired from the AGP if he was he going anywhere. The attorney general apprised he had to go to London and then Europe.

At this, the chief justice said: “You are not going anywhere unless we permit you as there are so many pressing issues that require your presence.” The attorney general then assured that he will not go anywhere. The court had appointed former presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Barrister Ali Zafar and Munir A Malik as amicus curie in this case.

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