Nawaz Sharif shaken


In an unprecedented move, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered on Wednesday that ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif be removed as head of the political party he founded, six months after the court removed him as premier. The ruling could throw into disarray Senate elections due on March 3, with opposition figures saying it invalidates candidates from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who were nominated by Sharif. The decision of apex court is a new and completely unexpected chapter in country’s judicial history and Wednesday’s order overturns a legal amendment by PML-N lawmakers allowing the former premier to lead the party despite being legally banned from holding public office after the Supreme Court disqualified him last July over an undeclared source of income.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar stunned everyone by saying on behalf of the bench thatthe Election Commission is directed to remove name of Nawaz Sharif as president of PML-N from all official records. As a result, all steps taken, all orders passed by Nawaz Sharif are also declared to be as if they had never been taken. Since, all decisions made by ousted prime minister after his disqualification on 28th July 2017, have been declared null and void and this decision would also affect Sharif-nominated candidates for the Senate election. These candidates can still contest but as independent and not as Nawaz Sharif’s party ticket holders. The PML-N holds a majority in the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, and it has been hopeful of winning control of the Senate in the March 3 election. Control of both houses could allow the PML-N to change the constitution to make Sharif eligible to hold office again when the party contests general elections due later this year.
Nawaz Sharif has served as prime minister twice before and each time was removed from office – in 1999 by a military coup and 1993 by presidential order. He commented that his removal from office was part of a political conspiracy against him, and in recent weeks he and his party have waged a war of words against the judiciary. Nawaz is still trying his best to be seen as the hard done by in all of this; in the face of a vengeful SC. And the latter, for its part, is not helping dispel this image. No matter how artfully constructed. Not when it fails to take to task the military establishment’s so-called reformed assets; allowing them to contest elections without putting in place a verification process for the downing of arms.
Be that as it may, Nawaz must have known that this direct challenge to the SC’s authority would not have gone down well; regardless of who may or may not be supporting it. To some, it seems that provocation was what he was after. Meaning that he must also have been equally mindful that the apex court would seek to reverse any political decisions he has taken in his illegitimate role as party president. The fallout of which is that all this lends credence to the former PM’s cries of a witch-hunt against he and his family. Thus the real question facing Nawaz today is this: whether it is more important to prioritise the future of PMLN’s dynasty politics or the democratic long-term health of this country? For as Pakistan enters into the last pre-election furlong – the country remains occupied with this ongoing battle of wills. Indeed, Nawaz has in the interim done a fantastic job of using his ‘constitutional’ disqualification as a rallying cry as his party continues to hit the campaign trail.
According to political observers, with the majority that it enjoyed in the National Assembly the Sharif government had the opportunity to strengthen Parliament. What Nawaz Sharif did was to take all crucial decisions himself and reduce the status of the National Assembly to a glorified rubber stamp. The prime minister attended the sittings infrequently. During the question hours the relevant ministers were often absent. There were frequent complaints of lack of quorum leading to postponement of sittings. Sharif rarely called a cabinet meeting till reprimanded by the Supreme Court after about three years. The PML-N was reminded of the importance of Parliament for the first time when Nawaz Sharif faced ouster in December 2014. Once rescued by Parliament, he again reverted to his old style of governance with all power concentrated in his own person and Parliament given no importance. Even now amidst the PML-N hype about Parliament’s powers, Khaqan Abbasi agreed to send an army unit to Saudi Arabia without informing, let alone consulting, the Parliament. The defence minister has refused to reveal the details about the unit’s deployment before even an in camera session of the Senate. What is next? This million dollars question will get its appropriate time for which everyone has to adopt ‘wait and see’ policy.