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February 24, 2018

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Senate candidates nominated by Nawaz can join party after polls

ISLAMABAD: Nearly two dozens of Senate candidates nominated by the ousted president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif, who have been declared independent contestants in pursuance of the Supreme Court judgment, have the constitutional option to join their party immediately after their success.

This choice is provided in clause 2 of article 63A (disqualification on grounds of defection, etc.) of the Constitution. “A member of a House [meaning the Senate, the National Assembly and provincial legislatures] shall be deemed to be a member of a Parliamentary Party if he, having been elected as a candidate or nominee of a political party which constitutes the Parliamentary Party in the House or, having been elected otherwise [independent] than as a candidate or nominee of a political party, has become a member of such Parliamentary Party after such election by means of a declaration in writing,” the clause says.

It doesn’t specify a timeframe for the elected senators to join a Parliamentary Party. However, almost identical provisos to articles 51 and 106 deal with the joining of a political party by members of the national and provincial assemblies, who return as independent competitors.

These clauses say the total number of general seats won by a political party shall include the independent returned candidates who may duly join it within three days of the publication in the official Gazette of their names.

The members to the seats reserved for non-Muslims will be elected through proportional representation system of political parties’ lists of candidates on the basis of total number of general seats won by each one of them in federal and provincial legislatures.

Once a candidate formally associates himself with a parliamentary party after his success in election, he will be bound by its discipline, meaning he will be hit by the defection clause if he violates certain conditions listed in article 63: if he resigns from its membership or joins another party; or votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by it in relation to election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a Money Bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill.

A lot of confusion was spread after Wednesday’s apex court judgment that dethroned Nawaz Sharif as the PML-N president. It also held that as a result of its determination, all steps taken, orders passed, directions given and documents issued by the deposed prime minister as Party Head after his disqualification on July 28 last year are also declared to have never been taken, passed, given or issued in the eyes of the law.

The word “Party Head” occurring in the court verdict figures in the Constitution for four times. Clause 1 of article 63A is relevant here that says he [deserting MP] may be declared in writing by the Party Head to have defected from the political party, and the Party Head may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer and the Chief Election Commissioner and shall similarly forward a copy thereof to the member concerned: Provided that before making the declaration, the Party Head shall provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him. Explanation: “Party Head” means any person, by whatever name called, declared as such by the Party.

The misperception and misunderstanding was propagated to make everyone believe that the PML-N candidates, declared independent nominees by the Election Commission of Pakistan on the force of the judgment, are barred from joining their party after the March 3 Senate election, and that they have to make a separate group.

Since, in the well-considered opinion of leading legal brains, the Constitution makes it crystal clear that anyone elected as senator or member of national or a provincial assembly faces no prohibition to join a political party of his choice. He may also choose to keep his independent status.

A PML-N leader, however, said that as Nawaz Sharif picked up the Senate candidates of the PML-N after a lot of deliberations attaching immense worth and weight to their commitment and loyalty to the party, not a single contestant is likely to stay away from it after his victory because of its votes. Therefore, their conversion into independent candidates from the party’s representatives is unexpected to dent the overall final tally of the PML-N that it is going to clinch in the Senate, he added.

As a result, the PML-N is going to emerge as the single largest party in the Senate after the March 3 election. None of its rivals specifically the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will be away from its numerical strength and will get less than even half of its tally.

But the PML-N still will not be in a position to elect its nominee as the Senate chairman single-handed, and will have to seek the support of its allies to win this slot.

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