ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against Maryam Nawaz Sharif and declared her eligible to serve as vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
A three-member ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Sardar Raza Khan had reserved its verdict after hearing arguments a day earlier which was unveiled on Tuesday.
The ECP bench in its unanimous decision said that Maryam Nawaz could hold the position conditionally as Articles 62 and 63 do not apply in her case. However, she will not be able to get elevated as the PML-N president or secretary general.
Reading out the short order, the CEC said the position of vice president is not a position of authority; therefore she could not be removed from it. However, she cannot assume the position of PML-N president until her disqualification order is reversed.
The petition against Maryam was filed by PTI lawmakers – Farrukh Habib, Maleeka Bukhari, Kanwal Shauzab and Javeria Zafar – after Maryam was appointed as the PML-N vice president in May this year.
The petition contended that Maryam’s appointment was in contravention of constitutional principles since she was convicted in a corruption case in July 2018. On Monday, the PTI lawyer Hassan Maan argued that the Supreme Court had made it clear that no convicted person could hold a party office.
He said Maryam, daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was convicted by an accountability court in Avenfield Apartment’s case that was lodged by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in view of the apex court’s July 2017 order in Panama Papers case.
The PTI lawyer said the apex court had noted that Section 203 of the Elections Act – which deals with party offices and membership of political parties – should be read with Articles 62, 63, and 63-A of the Constitution, which detail the qualification of the public representatives.
The lawyer recalled that a PTI candidate in South Punjab, Rai Hasan Nawaz, was stripped of his party designation on the basis of the same clause, which bars disqualified leaders from holding a position in any political party.
Jahangir Jadoon, the lawyer for the PML-N, argued that Maryam was appointed and not elected to the party post. He pointed out that the petitioners were not affected by the PML-N’s internal decision.
He argued that the ECP had previously dismissed pleas wherein the applicants were not the affected parties. Maryam’s lawyer, Barrister Zafarullah, said a constitutional article cannot be read with a law.
He said joining a party or holding a party office was a fundamental right of any citizen of Pakistan, and the ECP did not need to make decisions based on its previous decisions.