ECP Dismisses Plea Seeking Maryam’s Removal As PML-N Vice President
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday dismissed a plea to remove Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz from the post of party vice president, saying that she was eligible to retain the position.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (r) Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan, disposed of a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers Farrukh Habib, Maleeka Bokhari, Kanwal Shauzab and Javeria Zafar.
The ECP ruling said that Maryam, who is currently in the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) custody, could not be appointed as the acting president of the party and that she should not accept any functional party position.
In reaction to the ECP’s ruling, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that PTI had gone to the ECP with the petition to gain “cheap publicity”.
“Maryam Nawaz does not require any position or designation to help the people of this country,” she said, while adding, “Maryam’s services in connection with the restoration of the Constitution and the law is for everyone to see […] she worked on health and education behind the scenes for five years during the tenure of her father and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.”
Aurangzeb also said that the current government was engaging in trivial matters as is evident from the petition for which they had received a response from the election commission on Tuesday (today).
Meanwhile, Maryam’s counsel Barrister Zafarullah said that there was no such condition in Pakistan’s law that put a restriction on an individual from holding a party position.
While speaking to media persons, he said that Maryam would remain vice president of her party as the ECP had disposed PTI’s petition.
In their petition submitted with the ECP, the PTI lawmakers contended that Maryam Nawaz should be barred from holding any party position as she was convicted by a court in a corruption case on July 6 last year. The case was filed by NAB in connection with the Avenfield properties.
On Monday, the ECP had reserved its judgement in the case for the second time. Earlier, it had reserved its verdict on Aug 1 and had set Aug 27 as the date for its announcement.
But in an unusual move, the commission deferred the judgement by asking the counsels from both sides to assist it on whether or not the bar on a convict from holding office of the president of a political party also applied to the vice president, in the light of a recent judgement of the Supreme Court (SC).
On Monday, the PTI’s counsel Hassan Maan had argued that Section 203 of the Elections Act should be read with Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Referring to Jehangir Tareen’s case, he said a PTI lawmaker from Punjab had lost his party position on the basis of the same principle which barred disqualified leaders from holding any office within a political party.
Meanwhile, the PML-N lawyer said that while some political parties were headed by their presidents, others were headed by chairmen or spiritual heads. He also said that individuals who exercised authority were important, adding that vice presidents of political parties did not enjoy any real power.
He said the SC’s judgement also specifically mentioned party heads and asked the ECP to dismiss the petition filed by the PTI lawmakers.
Petition Opposing Maryam’s Appointment
After Maryam was appointed as PML-N vice president on May 3, some PTI lawmakers had challenged the move in the ECP on the grounds that she was facing a corruption case.
On the other hand, the PML-N leader had requested the ECP to dismiss the plea by arguing that there was no restriction in the Constitution and the Election Act on a convicted person from holding the post of a party’s vice president.
In its judgement given in connection with the Avenfield apartments reference, an accountability court had earlier sentenced Nawaz Sharif to rigorous imprisonment of 10 years, Maryam to seven years and her husband Captain (r) Mohammad Safdar to one year.
According to the court order, the accused were disqualified from contesting elections or holding any public office for 10 years starting from the date of their release after serving their sentences.
In addition, the accused would not be allowed to apply for or be granted any financial facilities in the form of a loan for a decade from the date of their conviction within the meaning of Section 15 of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.
On September 19 last year, the Islamabad High Court had suspended the decision given by NAB’s court in connection with the Avenfield reference. Later, the suspension was challenged by NAB but was dismissed by the apex court.