ISLAMABAD: The ruling PML-N has to make another crucial decision in the coming days – electing the party’s new president in the wake of a notice from the top electoral watchdog to find replacement for Nawaz Sharif who was disqualified to serve as party president, besides the country’s prime minister.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had de-notified Nawaz as member of the National Assembly in line with the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict. Nawaz was rendered ineligible either to act as party president in the wake of the verdict.
In a letter addressed to PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, the ECP quoted law provisions that bar a person to serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he or she does not qualify to be an elected member of parliament.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was elected president of the PML-N in October last year for another next four years. However, after his disqualification, he cannot officially hold any office of the party.
“Provided that a person shall not be appointed or serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is not qualified to be, or is disqualified from being, elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora [parliament] under Article 63 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan or under any other law for the time being in force,” reads the relevant provision of the Political Parties Order 2002, that regulates political parties in the country.
For the ruling party, choosing a new president is no less than a challenge as the new president should be acceptable to the various groups that exist within the party.
In the PML-N’s party constitution, office of the party president is the most powerful unlike in many other parties like the PPP and the PTI where chairperson of the party is considered the most powerful person.
It is the PML-N president who has the final say in many matters – including allocation of party tickets to candidates contesting the elections.
In the PML-N’s own constitution, it is the secretary-general who has to convene the party’s central executive committee’s meeting to hold party polls. Interestingly, the ruling party has been without a secretary-general since January last year.
In October 2016 intra-party polls, a total of 12 main office-bearers of the PML-N were elected. The secretary-general in the PML-N is a nominated post to be selected by the party president. However, Nawaz did not notify anyone as secretary-general.
The PML-N website still shows Nawaz as president of the party and Iqbal Zafar Jhagra as its secretary-general. The office of the secretary-general fell vacant in March 2016 when Jhagra became Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor.
The clause 15 of the PML-N’s party constitution reads; “If the office of the president falls vacant due to death or resignation or any other reason before the expiry of the term of him office, it shall be duty of the secretary general to convene within seven days a meeting of the Central Working Committee to elect an acting president and fix date for the meeting of the Council of PML-N within 45 days of the occurrence of the vacancy to elect the president.”
Nawaz was disqualified on July 28, and the provision, convening of the central working committee within seven days to elect an acting president, has already been violated. The party would now have to elect new president within 45 days, starting July 28.
Though a mandatory provision under the law, intra-party elections are a nominal exercise conducted by almost all mainstream political parties.
The ECP has been accepting results of such intra-party polls without checking the veracity of any such elections.