The setback for the Pakistan Muslim League (N) in an election year could scarcely have been more shattering, almost total The country’s Supreme Court has verily relegated the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to the footnotes of political history.
Sharif has suffered a double whammy ~ first, the disqualification from holding the office of Prime Minister, decreed by the Supreme Court in July last year over the Panama papers scam.
That order was extended to its logical conclusion last Friday ~ coincidentally the holy day of the Islamic week ~ when the court ruled that the verdict that was handed down nine months ago under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution “is for life”.
The Article sets the pre-condition for a Member of Parliament to be sadiq and ameen (honest and righteous). Palpably, Sharif’s record as head of government has been below the constitutional benchmark, judged by both parameters. In the net, he will not be eligible to hold public office till the judgment holds.
The unanimous verdict by a five-judge Bench is explicit on the fact that the disqualification of any MP or a public servant under Article 62 (1)(f) in the future will be “permanent”. Such a person cannot contest elections or become a member of parliament.
The banned-for-life verdict or his political eclipse will, therefore, be in the nature of present continuous and not “for the time being”. It was obvious on Sunday that he was intent on putting up a brave face ~ “It is a theatre of smoke and mirrors, a complex web of non-democratic values. The verdict doesn’t finish my political career,” was Sharif’s rather feeble defence.
The PML(N) leader’s wings have been cut fair and square, and the somewhat unanticipated development is bound to scupper the electoral prospects of the party no less acutely. A rudderless party will be contesting the elections amidst a generally fragile political spectrum.
It is the political bankruptcy that is overwhelming, a point of fact that will serve the interests of the two other players in the power-game ~ the military and the judiciary.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has made a pregnant observation, and significantly before the verdict was announced ~ ‘The public deserves leaders of good character”, the fine print being that Sharif doesn’t quite measure up to the stringent standards set by the Constitution and now robustly upheld by the apex judiciary.
To quote from the text of the verdict ~ “The restriction imposed by Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution for the eligibility of a candidate for election to Parliament serves the public need and public interest for honest, upright, truthful, trustworthy and prudent elected representatives.” Going by that yardstick, Friday’s order is a victory for the people.