ISLAMABAD: A little over two months after he had been disqualified by the top court from holding a public office, Nawaz Sharif returned on Tuesday as chief of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), thanks to the election reforms passed by parliament a day earlier.
It was the second time in 12 months that the PML-N elected Sharif as its president. On Oct 18 last year, Sharif, then the prime minister, had been voted to head the ruling party in the intra-party elections.
Following the July 28 Supreme Court ruling in the Panamagate case, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had asked the PML-N on August 7 to elect a new president because a disqualified person [in this case Sharif] could not hold any office in a political party.
Subsequently, the PML-N appointed Yaqoob Khan Nasir as its interim president. In the meantime, the government amended the Political Parties Order (PPO), 2002, removing the clause that barred a disqualified person from holding a political party office.
“I think I’m an exception. Many times efforts had been made to oust me from politics but people kept electing me every time,” Sharif told an assembly of his party’s members after his ‘unopposed election’ in the intra-party election at the Convention Centre.
“I pay tribute to all those members of the Senate and the National Assembly who amended this notorious law (PPO) and threw it in [former military ruler Pervez] Musharraf’s face. This law was the product of Ayub Khan and Musharraf era.”
The PML-N presidential election was conducted by a five-member election commission, headed by Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal, and comprising Najma Hameed (Punjab), Babu Sarfraz Jatoi (Sindh), Ali Afzal Jadoon (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) and Ameer Afzal Mandokhel (Balochistan).
Sharif’s elevation as the party chief was later approved by PML-N’s General Council, attended, among others, by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and several top leaders and workers from across the country.
In the speech after his election, Sharif targeted the judiciary over his disqualification. “They should have told us it was all about Iqama [the work permit issued by the United Arab Emirates] in the garb of Panama,” he said. “They should have said ‘we don’t have any evidence against you in Panama so we are going to disqualify you for [possessing] an Iqama,” he added.
“This has been ongoing for 70 years. Public representatives have been ousted and the country could not progress and prosper. That is why we lag behind and could not achieve the level of development other countries have achieved.”
Addressing the General Council, Shehbaz Sharif had an important advice for his elder brother. “I humbly request you to consult these workers — who have rendered sacrifices, faced torture and braved the odds — in your decision-making on important issues,” he said, pointing to the party workers seated among the audiences.
“Some new advisers misguided you for personal gains. Please make these people [party workers] your advisers who are your workers, your loyalists.”
Prime Minister Abbasi, on the occasion, reiterated his decades-old loyalty to Sharif. “I can see many faces here today but those faces are few who were there when Mian Sahib was first elected as party president 30 years ago. And I am one of them. I was 28 then.”
On the Supreme Court verdict he said: “We accepted the Panamagate verdict but history will not accept it nor will the people of Pakistan.”
The PML-N moved the controversial amendment to the Elections Bill to allow Sharif to become the party head again. On Monday, the PML-N held three huddles to re-elect Sharif as the party president.
The first meeting – of the Central Working Committee at the Punjab House – chaired PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq passed a vote of confidence in Sharif and amended the party constitution to allow a disqualified party member to become president.
Thereafter, Prime Minister Abbasi, in his capacity as the Leader of the House in National Assembly, convened a meeting of PML-N’s Parliamentary Party at the Parliament House to ensure maximum attendance of the party PML-N lawmakers for the passage of Election Bill 2017.
This followed the meeting of PML-N’s General Council at the Convention Centre. The Council approved the amendment made by CWC in the party constitution and the conducted of party election. In its second meeting, the General Council supervised Sharif’s election and notified him as President.