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September 18, 2019

ECP rejects PTI petition, rules Maryam can hold party post

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September 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Tuesday dismissed a petition, filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker, seeking removal of Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Maryam Nawaz as the party’s vice president.

The commission ruled that she was eligible to hold the position, but could not hold the office of president till conviction in question prevails.

The much-awaited order was issued at the ECP Secretariat here. A three-memberbench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan, disposed of the petition, filed by Farrukh Habib, Maleeka Bokhari, Kanwal Shauzab and Javeria Zafar in May this year.

The ECP ruled that Maryam, who is currently in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) custody for investigations, could not be appointed the acting president of the party and that she should not accept any functional party position.

The order says, “It is held that the office of vice-president being non-functional and without power does not attract the implications of Articles 62 and 63, read with Article 63-A of the Constitution.

“It is further held and directed that as long as the conviction in-question prevails, if and when the office of the president falls vacant, respondent No 1 (Maryam Nawaz) shall not be offered or shall not accept the office of president and any other important functional office, like the secretary general of the party, etc,” the order concluded.

The order carries signatures of the chief election commissioner, ECP members, Justice (retd) Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi and Justice (retd) Mrs Irshad Qaiser. The five-member ECP is functioning with two of the posts lying unoccupied for several months.

In their petition, the PTI lawmakers had maintained that Maryam could not hold any party position, as she had been convicted by a court of law on July 6, 2018, in a corruption case (Avenfield reference), filed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The ECP had reserved its judgement on Monday for the second time.

It had first reserved it on Aug 1 and had set Aug 27 as the date for its pronouncement. But in an unusual move, the commission deferred the judgement, asking the counsel for both sides to assist it on whether or not the bar on a convict from holding office of the president of a political party also applies to the vice president, in the light of a recent judgement of the Supreme Court.

PTI counsel Hassan Maan had argued that Section 203 of the Elections Act should be read with Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. He cited PTI leader Jehangir Tareen's case and contended that a PTI lawmaker from Punjab lost his party position on the basis of the same principle, which barred disqualified leaders from holding any party office.

On the contrary, the PML-N lawyer said some political parties were headed by their presidents while others were headed by chairmen or emirs. He said the Supreme Court judgement also specifically mentioned party heads and asked the ECP to dismiss the petition, filed by the PTI lawmakers.

Hours after Maryam's appointment as the PML-N vice president on May 3, the PTI lawmakers had challenged her appointment before the ECP. On the other hand, the PML-N leader had requested the ECP to dismiss the plea with the argument that there was no restriction in the Constitution and the Elections Act, 2017 on a convicted person to hold a party post of vice president.

Later on, one of the petitioners and PTI MNA, Barrister Maleeka Bokhari, said on Tuesday the ECP decision about Maryam Nawaz holding the PML-N office was contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court in Zulfiqar Bhutta case (PLD-2018 SC-370).

Reacting to the judgement, she said, “We are also of the view that Zulfiqar Bhutta case is not contrary to the decision of the larger bench of the Supreme Court in Benazir Bhutto case (PLD-1988 SC-416). Therefore, we reserve our right to challenge the ECP decision before a competent forum.”

She contended that without prejudice, “ECP’s today’s judgment, as reported in the media, confirms that Ms Maryam Nawaz having been convicted, can only hold a position in her party which is non-functional.”

The PTI legislator remarked that according to the ECP, the post of vice-president in the PML-N was a non-functional post, which means Maryam could not hold any public meeting or interact with any other political party or enter into any function with regard to her party.