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EDITORIAL: The fact that it took so long for somebody, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Mohammad Ahsan Bhoon in this case, to formally and legally urge the SC to hold that declarations by courts of law under Article 62 (1) (f) only applied to elections under question and did not entail a perpetual or lifetime ban itself raises many questions.

But for most Pakistanis it is enough to know that the matter of slapping lifetime bans of the likes of Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen has finally been put to the apex court. And even it ultimately doesn’t help dramatically pivot the country’s politics into a new direction, it will still have a pronounced effect on it.

There is, after all, a growing consensus that arbitrarily placing such bans on politicians, without giving them the right to lead evidence, produce witnesses, cross-examine the other side’s witnesses, or even appeal, is a little too harsh.

And it not only deprives those individuals of the opportunity of forming political parties and contesting elections, a fundamental right no less, but also leaves less for the people to choose from. Hopefully, as this initiative brings the mystery of the legislature’s silence on this subject to a welcome end, it will also give the legal fraternity something to think about.

How could the highest court in the land make such historic decisions without taking into account the obvious need to reconcile its jurisprudence, as the SCBA chief has submitted, to consider whether the denial of right to appeal, which is the result of the lifetime disqualification, is violative of the fundamental rights of individuals, and also their potential voters?

Now it’s only natural for the rumour mill, which feeds certain obvious sections of popular media, to go into overdrive and point fingers and raise the same old questions all over again. Especially because this is happening just when the political situation is ripe for conspiracy theories about some very high-profile and crucial dead rising from their political graves.

Interpreting the law’s silence on such issues shouldn’t really be so complicated, not the least when so much else, like retribution on top of denial of appeal or due trial, is also at play.

There is also a reason that judicial systems across the advanced world have evolved to interpret the black and white of the law often in light of realities on the ground; not always purely in isolation. And ours has not. So there’s a good chance of this constitutional petition, filed by the able SCBA president, answering a lot of questions at the same time.

How long this case takes to come to a conclusion is also going to be very important. Let’s not forget that the news that gets the most clicks these days is about alleged deals, between those behind the scenes and those cast aside, and there’s also talk about early elections. Both Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen are big players in their own rights and have the means and the ability to swing the scales in any election.

And nothing is more corrosive for the political and economic landscape than uncertainty. This one, in particular, concerns some very important pieces in the national puzzle, so it is also that much more important.

Hopefully, this matter will come to a quick and amicable end. The judiciary is, after all, one of the two national institutions that are still respected. Therefore, it must be very quick to answer questions that are asked of it, and more so when they are of this nature and touch upon such subjects.

Now that this (legal) game is afoot, it only remains to be seen what kind of conclusion it reaches and what changes it triggers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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