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pakistan
Wednesday Feb 14 2018
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Party members can elect leader of their choice, PML-N counsel tells SC

Nawaz addressing a party meeting in October 2016. Photo: SabahNews

ISLAMABAD: The counsel of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) contended before the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the constitution gives freedom to members of a political party to elect their leaders.

PML-N counsel, Salman Akram Raja, said so during hearing of around a dozen petitions against disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif being reelected party president after the passage of Elections Act 2017 last year.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, resumed the hearing on Wednesday.

Raja contended that articles 19 and 17 of the Constitution of Pakistan give the freedom to party members to elect their leaders.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the party head controls everything.

The chief justice inquired into what would be the case in case it is declared that Nawaz cannot be party chief, adding that would there be a walk over in the instance? 

During the hearing, the chief justice inquired as to who allotted the Senate tickets and summoned the nomination papers for the Senate elections from the Election Commission of Pakistan. 

Moreover, the bench instructed the attorney general to submit the record of the parliamentary debate during the passage of the 14th amendment and inform the court as to who was in power at the time. The amendment was passed in 1997 during Nawaz's second tenure as prime minister. 

During the hearing, Chief Justice Nisar wondered how a person considered unfit to be a member of Parliament could head a parliamentary party. 

The hearing was adjourned until February 15 when the PML-N counsel is expected to conclude his arguments. 

At an earlier hearing on Feb 7, Pakistan Peoples Party's counsel, Latif Khosa, argued that Nawaz tried to fool the court and people by being elected head of the party.

A day earlier, Nawaz had informed the apex court that he will not become part of the proceedings against the Elections Act 2017. 

Disqualification to party president 

Following Nawaz's disqualification as prime minister in July 2017 in the Panama Papers case, the ruling party managed to amend the Constitution to allow the former premier to retain his chairmanship of the PML-N.

As a result, the Elections Act 2017 was passed by Parliament bringing Nawaz back as the party president despite his disqualification from the National Assembly.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, MNA Jamshaid Dasti, National Party and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), among others, challenged the law for allowing a disqualified parliamentarian to become a party head.

The petitions, challenging specific clauses of the recently passed Elections Act 2017, state that Nawaz's appointment as party president is in violation of Clause 5 of the Political Parties Order 2002 and Article 17 of the Constitution.

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