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ISLAMABAD: In a huge relief to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the National Assembly on Sunday passed a bill seeking an amendment to the Elections Act 2017, aimed at limiting the disqualification of MPs to five years with retrospective effect.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif and the newly formed Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) chief Jahangir Tareen will be among those who could benefit from the law.

The Supreme Court had disqualified both senior politicians in June and December 2017, respectively, after they were found to be “dishonest” under Article 62(1) (f) of the Constitution of Pakistan.

ECP empowered to decide election date: Bill aimed at reducing disqualification term passed by Senate

The Act – titled Elections (Amendment) Bill 2023 – also aims to empower the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to announce election dates unilaterally without having to consult the president.

When approved by the Senate on June 16, Clause 4 — pertaining to the disqualification of lawmakers — was added to the bill as at that point, it was solely about the ECP powers.

The bill was presented by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the National Assembly and it is to come into force immediately.

The amendments have been proposed under Article 62(f) of the Constitution, which states: “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parlia-ment) unless he is sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law.”

Pertaining to the time period of disqualification for lawmakers, the bill included an amendment to Section 232 (Disqualification on account of offences) of the Election Act, 2017.

Clause 4 of the bill stated: “In the said Act, for Section 232, the following shall be substituted and shall, notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (3) of section 1 of the said Act, always be deemed to have been so substituted on and from commencement of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010.”

The amendment added that the procedure, manner and duration of disqualifications and qualifications should be as specifically provided for in relevant provisions of Articles 62 (qualifications for membership of Parliament) and 63 (disqualifications for membership of Parliament) of the Constitution.

“Where no such procedure, manner or duration has been provided for therein, the provisions of this Act shall apply,” it added.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in any other provision of this Act, any other law for the time being in force and judgement, order or decree of any court, including the Supreme Court and a high court, the disqualification of a person to be elected, chosen or to remain as a member of the Parliament or provincial assembly under paragraph (f) of clause (1) of Article 62 of the Constitution shall be for a period not exceeding five years from the declaration of the court of law in that regard and such declaration shall be subject to the due process of law,” it stated.

Moreover, amendments have been proposed to Sections 57(1) (notification of election programme) and 58 (notification of election programme) of the Elections Act to empower the ECP to announce election dates unilaterally without having to consult the president. They are as follows:

Section 57(1): The commission shall announce the date or dates of the general elections by notification in the official gazette and shall call upon the constituencies to elect their representatives.

Section 58: Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 57, the commission may at any time after the issuance of notification under subsection (1) of that section make such alterations in the election programme announced in that notification for the different stages of the election or may issue a fresh election programme with fresh poll date(s) as may in its opinion to be recorded in writing be necessary for the purposes of this act.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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