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Pakistan Supreme Court strikes down lifelong ban on public office in relief for Nawaz Sharif ahead of polls

The court's ruling has far-reaching implications, overturning the provision that previously allowed for a lifetime ban on holding public office. This decision could reshape the political landscape, especially considering the timing in the lead-up to the forthcoming polls.

Edited By: Nitin Kumar @Niitz1 New Delhi Updated on: January 08, 2024 19:04 IST
Nawaz Sharif
Image Source : PTI/FILE PHOTO Former PM Nawaz Sharif and the Supreme Court of Pakistan building.

In a significant ruling on Monday, Pakistan's Supreme Court overturned the lifetime disqualification for lawmakers, modifying the restriction to a five-year ban. This decision brings relief to prominent politicians, including former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, as the country prepares for the upcoming February 8 elections.

The Supreme Court's decision marks a departure from its 2018 judgment, which initially stated that disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) would be a lifetime ban. However, subsequent changes in the Elections Act 2017, implemented on June 26, 2023, restricted the disqualification to a five-year term.

The seven-member bench, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, declared that individuals disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) cannot face a lifetime ban from running in elections. The judgment, with a 6 to 1 split decision, contradicted the previous ruling in favor of a lifelong disqualification made by a five-member bench in 2018.

Chief Justice Isa and Justices Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Yahya Afridi, Aminuddin Khan, Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, and Musarrat Hilali reached the decision after concluding hearings on multiple petitions. Justice Afridi expressed dissent, advocating for a life-long disqualification.

This verdict resolves the longstanding controversy surrounding the duration of disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) and the Elections Act 2017. Notably, it impacts the political prospects of figures like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, both of whom faced disqualification under the contested law.

The ruling has received varied reactions, with former law minister Azam Nazir Tarar of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz welcoming the decision and stating it rectifies a fundamental rights discrepancy.

The Supreme Court's discomfort with a lifelong ban on convicted politicians was evident during the hearings, and the chief justice emphasized the need for various perspectives on the matter. While arguments predominantly favored nullifying the concept of a lifetime ban, Chief Justice Isa insisted on hearing arguments supporting the life-long disqualification.

The issue gained prominence in 2023 during the hearing of a petition by Badshah Khan Qaisarani, disqualified for presenting a fake graduation degree. Chief Justice Isa highlighted the inconsistency between the SC verdict on lifetime disqualification and the 2017 Elections Act amendments, emphasizing the potential for confusion in the upcoming general elections.

On Thursday, Chief Justice Isa asserted that a life-long disqualification from Parliament goes "against Islam," referencing the Quran's depiction of human status and emphasizing that disqualifying anyone for life contradicts Islamic principles.

Also read | Pakistan: Five policemen on polio duty killed in blast at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Bajaur, 22 wounded

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