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Editorial

April 15, 2018

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The cost of clarity

The Supreme Court judgment on Friday, ruling that any person disqualified under Article 62 (1)(f) would be barred for life will inevitably have a crucial impact on the manner in which political history unfolds both in the immediate future and later down the road. A five-member bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that Article 62(1)(f) which lays down the condition that any member of parliament must be ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’ applies for life to that individual. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified on the basis of this article on July 28 last year, and Jehangir Tareen of the PTI on December 15 in the same year.

There have been debates over the period for which Article 62 would apply. But the court has now clearly made a decision backed by all five judges on the bench, leaving a small provision that the disqualification will remain in effect so long as the declaratory judgment supporting the conclusion of a violation of Article 62 remains in effect. A distinction has also been made between Articles 62 and 63, with Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed in an additional note observing that, while the constitution laid down a specific period for disqualification under Article 63, this was not the case for Article 62(1)(f).

While legal experts will of course discuss what is an unprecedented judgment with important political consequences, political parties are also coming in with their opinions. The PML-N has for obvious reasons been critical of the verdict while other parties have suggested that Nawaz Sharif himself is responsible for what has happened. Till now, different periods of disqualification and separate verdicts have been issued by courts where the question of illegibility to be chosen for parliament has been raised. This verdict lays down a very definite ground rule. It also effectively brings to an end the parliamentary careers of Nawaz Sharif and Jehangir Tareen, although it remains to be seen what kind of political influence former prime minister Sharif may still wield, especially in light of recent defections from the party. It is also assumed that the many lawmakers disqualified for holding fake degrees and dual nationalities will also not be able to be members of parliament for the duration of their lives.

Undoubtedly, this affair adds new complications to our democracy and emphasizes how important it is for the constitution to be clear on all issues with as little ambiguity as possible. Certainly, this was not the case for Article 62(1)(f). The judges have now clarified how they interpret the article. This will have immense significance for future political events in the country and also for both individual political leaders and the parties they belong to.

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