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ISLAMABAD: The federal government is mulling over different options to bring Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh to the Parliament, including his election as senator from Sindh or Punjab or to have him contest the National Assembly by-election from a seat in Karachi recently vacated by Faisal Vawda.

Informed sources told the Business Recorder that after his defeat in the March 3 Senate polls against opposition’s joint candidate Yusuf Raza Gilani, the government is seriously considering the options in hand to get Hafeez Shaikh elected as a parliamentarian in order to retain him as finance minister after June 9, 2021.

Among the options available, they said that Hafeez Shaikh would be fielded as a senator from Sindh in case Vawda is disqualified for allegedly submitting a false affidavit in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the dual national case.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on March 3 directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to proceed against Vawda under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution that deals with disqualifications.

A PTI senator close to Prime Minister Imran Khan told the Business Recorder on condition of anonymity that the premier was prepared for any adverse decision in Vawda case. In such a situation, Hafeez Shaikh would be given the PTI ticket to contest Senate election from Sindh, he added.

Another option being contemplated is to let Hafeez Shaikh contest the by-election in NA-249, Karachi, the seat left vacant by Vawda.

“It wouldn’t be surprising if we fielded Hafeez Shaikh from NA-249 even though he does not have any electoral constituency of his own. In the past, Shaukat Aziz was made to contest election from Attock, and he won that election and became prime minister during Musharraf era,” he added.

The sources said that the government was also considering the option of getting Hafeez Shaikh elected as a senator from Punjab by getting PML-N’s Ishaq Dar de-seated under Article 64 (2) of the Constitution.

“A House may declare the seat of a member vacant if, without leave of the House, he remains absent for forty consecutive days of its sittings,” the Article says.

However, a former secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Kanwar Dilshad, said that Article 64 (2) did not apply to Ishaq Dar as he had not taken oath as a senator since his re-election in March 2018.

He said that there was no timeframe specified in the Constitution or the election laws for a lawmaker to take oath after his/her election. Currently, there are two lawmakers -– Ishaq Dar and Chaudhry Nisar -– who did not take oath after their elections.

Nisar, who won a Punjab Assembly seat from Rawalpindi in 2018 general elections, has not since taken oath as an MPA. The federal government is also considering promulgating a presidential ordinance to specify a time limit for a lawmaker to take oath in a bid to de-seat Dar for a possible adjustment of Shaikh on his seat from Punjab.

However, a senior PTI leader said that at present this option was not on a priority because it could be challenged in a court, which may strike it down. Talking to the Business Recorder, PML-N chairman Raja Zafar-ul-Haq said the Opposition would strongly resist if the government promulgated presidential ordinance bypassing the Parliament.

“If any timeframe needs to be fixed for a newly-elected lawmaker to take oath, it has to be done by the Parliament through legislation and not by the government through a presidential ordinance. We would not allow the government to undermine the authority of the parliament,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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