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February 17, 2018

What’ll happen if SC declares issuance of Senate tickets by Nawaz void

Top Story

February 17, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Serious issues, including the possible delay of the March 3 Senate election, will crop up if the Supreme Court declared void the issuance of the upper house tickets by ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his capacity as the president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to its candidates.

It is not known whether the judgment will be handed before or after the Senate election, which is now just 15 days away. The highest judicial forum will resume on February 21 the hearing on the pleas mainly challenging the deposed premier’s re-election of the PML-N after his July 28 Supreme Court-sanctioned disqualification. It is unclear how long it will take to conclude the proceedings.

One question that will emerge will be whether the PML-N ticketholders will stand ousted from the contest, leaving the field open for their opponents to get their nominees elected without any hassle, if an adverse verdict was delivered before the polling.

Another issue will be: will the PML-N’s successful aspirants be unseated if an unfavourable decision came after their election, which will be absolutely legitimate before any verdict against the allocation of tickets to them?

Yet another question will be whether or not the process of their valid election will be endorsed by the ruling coming after they have returned.

Will the PML-N be allowed to re-issue the tickets by its newly elected president after declaring the earlier award illegal or its existing secretary general to the same candidates who had already gone through all the electoral processes, including challenges and scrutiny of their nomination papers and were declared successful in the election?

Another question that will emerge in case of a judgment detrimental to these ticketholders because Nawaz Sharif was not allowed to sponsor them will be whether or not March 3 election be delayed to enable them to get sponsorship afresh from a qualified PML-N leader so that they are not deprived of their constitutional right of taking part in the upper house poll. However, if the PML-N president was declared unauthorised to hold his office and divested of the top party slot by the apex court, the party will require some time to elect a new chief in his place to legitimately issue tickets to its Senate contestants as it will have to convene its federal council for the purpose.

Will the PML-N be inclined to boycott the Senate election if its candidates were expelled from the contest or after their success for having got tickets from their president, who was not legally permitted to do so in the light of the possible harmful judgment against his position?

In a worst case scenario—non-appearance of the PML-N lawmakers in the polling after being confronted with the nightmare of expulsion from the field—, there will be just a few dozens of votes of the opposition forces that will be cast in the Punjab Assembly in particular because of its unprecedented domination over it. The contestants belonging to other parliamentary parties, who will be considered elected in such a process, will be able to bag just a few votes. Will that exercise be genuine, authentic and lawful when almost the entire provincial assemblies will have resultantly stood disenfranchised?

Some of these questions may or may not arise at all, but it all will depend on the Supreme Court decision. It is believed that the verdict will deal with such issues as the apex court has repeatedly declared that come what may it will not allow hampering of the democratic process or violation of the Constitution.

A powerful campaign had been going on over the past several months to block the Senate election with the principal objective of restricting the PML-N from becoming the single largest party in the upper house to be in a position to elect its nominee as the chairman with the support of its allied parties after nearly two decades.

On petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and others, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Omar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan is reviewing the validity of the Elections Act, 2017, particularly its Section 203 that paved the way for a disqualified person (Nawaz Sharif in this case) to become party office bearer.

The question relating to the legitimacy, or otherwise, of the Senate tickets awarded by Nawaz Sharif provided the court struck down Section 203 was raised by the chief justice during the proceedings.

PML-N’s lawyer Salman Akram Raja contended that the issuance of tickets by a disqualified person did not pollute the whole party. “Although a disqualified person cannot come to Parliament, he can run the party; a person who was elected on this ticket would use his own conscience and would deliver and would not be under the party head’s influence,” he said that stressed the judgment should not have retrospective effect.