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No constitution debarred convicted person from holding political party office: Maryam Nawaz

26 June, 2019

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While defending a reference filed against her disqualification from vice-presidency of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday, Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, submitted that no constitutional provision and Election Act 2017 debarred a convicted person from holding political party’s office.

Appearing before a three-member bench of the ECP led by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Sardar Muhammad Raza and including Justice (r) Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi and Justice (r) Irshad Qaiser, Maryam’s legal team – consisting of Barrister Zafarullah and advocates Umer Sajjad Chaven and Sharafat Ali Chaudhry – urged the commission to dismiss the reference against their client on the grounds of maintainability.

PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif approved on May 3 key changes to the party’s structure, including the appointment of his niece Maryam Nawaz as vice president of the party, who is among 16 vice presidents, a step taken for the first time by the party leadership.

Member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Maleeka Ali Bokhari had challenged the appointment of Maryam Nawaz as vice president of the PML-N before the ECP. After admitting the plea for hearing on May 28, the ECP had issued notices to Maryam for June 25.

Among other points of law, the legal team expressed in the reply to the reference that the political process had been enshrined in the provisions of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 and Article 17(2) of the constitution, saying all the instruments provided guarantee for right to participate in the political process and form a political party.

Maryam further submitted that during dictatorships, there used to be a clause in the Political Parties Order, 2002, that barred a convict from holding a party position. “The parliament had done away with this clause in the Election Act, 2017.” Raising a number of objections over the reference against her, Maryam submitted, “It is a settled law that only an aggrieved person can knock at the door of the ECP. The petitioners have no locus standi to file the instant petition, as the petitioner is not an aggrieved party.” Substantiating her stance that reference in hand against her was not maintainable and should be dismissed with cost, Maryam said that the ECP had no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the current matter, adding the reference was filed against her with mala fide and ulterior motives.

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