NA approves bill limiting parliamentarians' disqualification to 5 years

Waqar Satti
A view of the National Assembly session underway with Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf in the chair, on April 10, 2023. — Twitter/NAofPakistan
A view of the National Assembly session underway with Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf in the chair, on April 10, 2023. — Twitter/NAofPakistan

  • Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen will benefit from the bill.
  • Lawmakers disqualified for life will be able to run for office.
  • NA allows ECP to announce poll date sans president's approval.

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Sunday amended a law limiting the disqualification of a parliamentarian to a maximum of five years, paving the way for those barred for life from running for a public office.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) chief Jahangir Khan Tareen will be among those who benefit from the move.

The Supreme Court had disqualified both senior politicians in June and December 2017, respectively, after they were found to be "dishonest" under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

Senate — the upper house of the parliament — had earlier this month approved the bill seeking amendments to Section 232 (Qualifications and Disqualifications) of the Election Act, 2017.

"Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provisions of this Act, any other law for the time being in force and Judgment, orders or decree of any court, including the Supreme Court and a High Court, the disqualification of a person to be elected, chosen, or to remain as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) of 9 Provincial Assembly under Paragraph (1) of clause (1) of Article 62 of the Constitution shall be for a period not exceeding five years from the declaration by the court of law in that regard and such declaration shall be subject to the due process of law," the bill reads.

With Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed President Arif Alvi out of the country due to Hajj, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani has taken charge as the acting president and chances are that the might approve the bill soon, Geo News learnt.

The house also approved another amendment to the law, allowing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to announce the date for polls unilaterally, without the president's approval.

"...the Commission shall by notification in the official gazette announce the date or dates, as the case may be, of the general elections," the bill reads, amending Section 58 of the Election Act.

The bill also allows the election commission to make changes to the election programme after announcing the date, but it would have to do it "in writing".

The ruling coalition had made two attempts earlier, according to The News, to overturn the lifetime disqualification of parliamentarians.

But both moves — The Supreme Court Review of Judgments and Orders Bill 2023 and the law to limit the chief justice’s powers — were challenged in the Supreme Court.

However, according to the publication, it is yet to be seen how the apex court will react to the current legislation of amending the Election Act to limit the disqualification period.

"The parliament is supreme and it has the right to legislate and remove any ambiguity if there is any in a law or act. This was due and it should have been done a long time ago," people in the ruling coalition told the publication.