ISLAMABAD: Deposed PM Nawaz Sharif, who had to step down as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief after his disqualification from holding public office under the top court’s Panama Papers case verdict, is set to be elected the head of the party again on October 3.
The recent passage of the Elections Bill 2017– a set of laws to reform the country’s election system – by both the lower and upper houses of parliament has already paved the way for the former prime minister to once again take the helm of the PML-N.
As the bill has already been passed by the National Assembly, it will only be returned to the lower house on October 2 for fresh votes on the Senate’s amendments. Given the PML-N’s majority in the lower house, this should be smooth sailing. On the same day, the bill will would land on President Mamnoon Hussain’s desk for a signature approving it as law.
The very next day, the PML-N will hold a general council meeting of the party wherein Nawaz is expected to elect its chief again.
Among the new laws introduced to the bill was an amendment to Section 5 of the PPO. The amendment allows every citizen who is not a government servant to form a political party or hold any office of a political party.
Introduced during Musharraf’s era, PPO Section 5 (1) says that every citizen, not being in the service of Pakistan, has the right to form or be a member of a political party or be otherwise associated with a political party or take part in political activities or be elected as an office-bearer of a political party.
But the clause currently has a proviso which reads “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 Parliament under Article 63 of the Constitution…or under any other law for the time being in force”.
That clause disappeared in the bill. When the bill was passed in the National Assembly, it went unnoticed.
It was only during voting on the bill in the Senate that leader of the opposition Aitzaz Ahsan brought the development to the notice of the house and proposed an amendment in the relevant law passed by the National Assembly.
Ahsan proposed an amendment to clause 203 (1) of the new election laws with a new proviso stating: “provided that the 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 the parliament under any law for the time being in force”.
Law minister Zahid Hamid opposed the amendment, which led to the chairman calling a vote count. To the opposition’s surprise, Ahsan was outvoted by one vote, with 37 for and 38 against, despite the government’s numerical inferiority.