A tacit understanding between some opposition senators helped ruling PML-N emerge victorious from the opposition-dominated Senate by rejecting a crucial amendment to the Elections Bill 2017 that paved the way for deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to retain his party’s presidency.
Well-placed sources privy to the development told Business Recorder that Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique met Noman Wazir Khattak of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Mian Atique Sheikh of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) to get their support, which led to the defeat of the opposition’s amendment by one vote.
Taking notice of the absence of its two Senators Noman Wazir Khattak and Brigadier (retd) William during the crucial amendment, the PTI on Saturday issued show-cause notices to them for leaving the hall at eleventh hour.
MQM-P chief Dr Farooq Sattar expressed serious reservations on Saturday on the bill that would allow Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to remain the President of his party, saying that if a person cannot participate in active politics then how he can lead a party.
When his attention was drawn towards Senator Atique (MQM-P) who sided with the government during the vote on the amendment, he said that if any MQM-P member has supported the bill, action would be taken against him. The MQM-P chief said that the bill is against the Constitution and the spirit of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
The opposition was ill-prepared with their members absent during the important legislative business, and at times some members from the opposition voted in favour of the treasury and on at least one occasion, the PPP itself was found divided during the voting. A total of 75 senators in the 104-member house voted for the amendment.
During a vote on various clauses of the Elections Bill 2017 and proposed amendments, hectic lobbying continued inside and outside the House as treasury senators along with Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique kept urging senators from outside the chambers to vote against the opposition’s amendment. The parliamentary leader of PPP Senator Taj Haider said that “it was a win-win situation for the party even though we lost the match by one vote despite all-out efforts by the party”.
Haider said that “initially the MQM-P was with the joint opposition but then surprisingly they walked out of the house, while one of their senators – Atique Sheikh- actually voted against the opposition-sponsored clause which helped the government restore the controversial clause in its original form which was inserted to bring back Nawaz Sharif as the party’s president”. He said that except three PPP senators who were out of the country, the remaining 24 members were present in the house.
Former Chairman Senate and senior constitutional lawyer Wasim Sajjad said that amendment to existing law that disqualifies a person from being an office bearer of any political party in case of his disqualification as member of the parliament could be made through n aordinary legislation. Responding to a question, Wasim Sajjad said that Senate passed the Elections Bill 2017 as law not as constitutional amendment because it has nothing to do with disqualification from membership of Parliament.
Section 5(1) of the Political Parties Order, which holds, reads: “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.”
A proviso to the clause 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 the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) under Article 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan or under any other law for the time being in force.”
But after the passage of Elections Bill 2017, the proviso was struck off the bill that was passed by the National Assembly on August 22 after former PM Sharif’s disqualification on July 28.