The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is set to re-elect ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as the party chief next week under a new law that allows all citizens to form or head party, sources said.
Last week, the controversial Election Bill 2017 was passed by the Senate. The National Assembly session has been convened on October 2 to approve the bill. President Mamnoon Hussain is expected to sign the bill into law on the same day.
Sources said that PML-N has also summoned a meeting on October 3 to re-elect Nawaz Sharif as the party president.
The Election Commission of Pakistan had disqualified Mr Sharif as a member of the National Assembly following the Supreme Court’s July 28 verdict on the Panama Papers scandal. The 67-year-old leader was also rendered ineligible to act as the president of PML-N party under the landmark verdict.
To pave the way for him to become the party chief, the PML-N managed to get clause 203 of the Elections Reforms Bill, 2017 passed by the Senate.
Among the new laws introduced to the bill was an amendment to Section 5 of the Political parties Order (PPO). Introduced during Pervez Musharraf’s military regime, PPO Section 5 (1) says that every citizen, not being in the service of Pakistan, has the right to form or be a member of a political party or be otherwise associated with a political party or take part in political activities or be elected as an office-bearer of a political party.
But the clause currently has a proviso which reads “Provided that a person shall not be appointed or serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is not qualified to be, or is disqualified from being, elected or chosen as a member of Parliament under Article 63 of the constitution…or under any other law for the time being in force”.
That clause disappeared in the Bill. When the Bill was passed in the National Assembly, it went unnoticed. It was only during voting on the Bill in the Senate that leader of the opposition Aitzaz Ahsan brought the development to the notice of the house and proposed an amendment in the relevant law passed by the National Assembly.
Mr Ahsan proposed an amendment to clause 203 (1) of the new election laws with a new proviso stating: “provided that the person shall not be appointed or serve as an office-bearer of a political party if he is not qualified to be, or is disqualified from being, elected or chosen as a member of the parliament under any law for the time being in force.”
Law minister Zahid Hamid opposed the amendment, which led to the chairman Mian Raza Rabbani calling a vote count. To the opposition’s surprise, Mr Ahsan was outvoted by one vote, with 37 for and 38 against, despite the government’s numerical weakness.