As the situation develops, the 2024 general elections may see the top two politicians of the country — Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif — not eligible to contest the polls.

Presently, both are disqualified to contest elections or from holding any public office. Generally, minus-one has recently been discussed vis-a-vis Imran Khan and it was speculated that Nawaz Sharif would be able to clear his convictions to take part in the upcoming polls.

The PMLN still believes so but the latest verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on SC’s Practices and Procedures Act 2023 has dampened Nawaz Sharif’s chances to clear his conviction.

The SC though upheld the Act, did not endorse its Sub-section (2) of Section 5, which was about granting a right of appeal retrospectively. The said sub section was declared ultra vires the Constitution. With the right to retrospective appeal denied, Nawaz Sharif could not appeal against his lifetime disqualification from participation in politics.

With the sub-section (2) of Section 5 having been struck down by the apex court, the PMLN is now banking on another controversial law — the Election Act 2017 as amended in 2023 during the PDM government — to insist that Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification for life is no more relevant.

In the Election Act, an amendment was introduced in Section 232 (Qualifications and Disqualifications) of the Election Act, 2017 to set the period of disqualification to five years. It said that the disqualification period under Article 62 of the Constitution would not exceed five years.

Disqualification of the lawmaker will be considered for five years where the tenure of punishment is not specified in the Constitution. Mian Nawaz Sharif was disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) after having not been declared sadiq and ameen in the Panama case by the Supreme Court. The PMLN believes the Election Act amendment will work for Nawaz, who will not even be required to approach the apex court as he has already completed his five-year disqualification period.

Others, including even some independent legal experts, insist that without a constitutional amendment or the Supreme Court’s ruling, Nawaz Sharif’s life disqualification cannot be reduced to five years on the basis of an amendment to the law.

The said amendment also contradicts the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s judgment that had held the disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) for life. Some believe that the only hope for Nawaz is now the petition of the Pakistan Bar Council led by Ahsan Bhoon, which has challenged the lifetime disqualification of parliamentarians.

After his four-year self-exile, Nawaz is returning to Pakistan on Oct 21. The PMLN chief is coming back as a convict who, if not given protective bail, has to go to jail from the airport because of additional convictions in two corruption cases — Al-Azizia and Avenfiled. So the challenge for Nawaz is to get himself acquitted in these corruption cases besides getting reversed life-long disqualification in the Panama case. On the other hand, Imran Khan was convicted in the Toshakhana case and was jailed for three years. His sentence has though been suspended, because of his conviction he is disqualified to take part in elections for five years. The PTI has filed an appeal against his conviction in the IHC. Generally, appeals against such convictions are not heard early. Additionally, Imran Khan, who is still in jail, is facing a cipher case trial. He along with Shah Mehmood Qureshi, is scheduled to be indicted next week in the cipher case, which is expected to conclude within a few months’ time. Some other serious cases are also maturing up against the PTI chairman.


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2023-10-13

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