Legal and constitutional hurdles aside, adamant Pakistan Peoples Party circles are considering getting former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani elected to the Senate in March 2012.
This move was discussed in a meeting held at the Presidency last week, where the legal brains of the party were asked to contemplate how to overcome legal bars, if any, on Haqqani since he recently resigned as the ambassador, sources said.
Article 63 of the Constitution puts a two-year bar on any government servant to contest polls after retirement. Clause (j) of the same article extends this bar period to three years if a person is removed or compulsorily retired from service.
However, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani recently told the media that Haqqani had voluntarily submitted his resignation after his name appeared in the Memogate scandal, currently a bone of contention between the military establishment and the PPP.
Although Haqqani served as ambassador to the US, he does not belong to the civil service group and some legal experts are of the opinion that the two-year bar might not apply in his case. However, most constitutional experts believe that Article 63 will be a major stumbling block.
PPP Secretary-General Senator Jahangir Badar refrained from confirming the intent of his party, saying that he has asked interested candidates to file applications by January 10, after which the party will decide who to award the tickets to.
Furthermore, the ECP recently barred dual nationality holders from taking part in elections. However, a PPP leader, who attended the meeting where the proposal was being discussed, said that he was not sure if Haqqani possesses dual nationality. However, there is a precedent in the past where the Supreme Court allowed Umer Ghuman to contest the 2002 polls despite the fact that he was US ‘green card’ holder.
An official of the Election Commission who deals with election wing of the commission said he was not sure if Haqqani will fall in the category of clause (m) of the article 63 that exempts some holders of offices in the government service from any ban in taking part in elections. “This would be the first case of its nature as far as I know,” the official said.
Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood, a legal expert, was of the view that the bar will apply: “There is precedent: Syeda Abida Hussain’s nomination papers that she had filed for 1993 elections on the same ground were rejected.”
Hussain also confirmed the rejection, saying that after servicing as ambassador to Washington from 1991-93 she filed her nomination papers to take part in 1993 elections but the returning officer and the election tribunal rejected them. She later moved the Supreme Court and her appeal matured in 2000. “The full bench of court gave a detailed verdict where they specifically mentioned which offices were exempted,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2011.