It was the rarest of the rare occasion in the country’s politics on Wednesday.
The opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the ruling coalition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), had a common issue to concur – end of lifelong disqualification of lawmaker.
The issue of disqualification of lawmakers under various Constitutional clauses was scheduled for discussion in the Senate Standing Committee on Wednesday, however, the committee deferred the matter until next meeting because of a lack of quorum.
The committee met here with its chairman Barrister Ali Zafar of the PTI in the chair. However, because of the incomplete quorum, the bill on constitutional amendments, including Article 62-1F, Article 63A, Article 64 and Article 160, was postponed.
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The Article 62 details the qualifications for membership of Parliament, while the Article 63 is about the disqualifications. Similarly, the Article 64 is about vacation of seats, and the Article 160 pertains to the distribution of revenues between the federation and the provinces.
“Disqualification is not defined in Article 62(f), there is an interpretation of the Supreme Court [of it],” Barrister Ali Zafar told the media after the meeting. “My personal opinion is that the duration of each sentence should be determined,” he added.
“I’m against the lifetime disqualification of politicians,” Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar concurred. “There has been no political consensus since Constitutional amendments were made during the periods of dictators,” he added. “Now, it is a moment of concern, as politicians have been disqualified for life.”
Neither the law minister nor the Senate committee chairman mentioned the name of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had been disqualified for life by the Supreme Court. However, Barrister Zafar emphasised the any amendment to the Constitution in this regard should be for the future.
“Like other provisions of the Constitution, it should specify the period of disqualification,” Zafar said. “The clause relating to the period of disqualification should be prospective and not retrospective. Past disqualifications may stay, but the law can be amended for the future,” he added.
Speaking about the present legislation in the committee, Tarar said that he did not see any constitutional amendment to be enacted, as “this bill is a private member’s bill”. He terms rhetoric a part of politics, but stressed politicians must sit down and talk. “Politics is not a name for mud-slinging and bickering.”
Barrister Ali Zafar criticising the government for instituting what he described as false and baseless cases against the opposition. He also criticised the recent decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the prohibited funding case.
“It appears that the federal government is still bent on creating baseless cases. The government has made the Election Commission case its base to counter Imran Khan’s popularity,” he said. “Based on this report, more cases are being made. In such a situation, a political compromise cannot be expected.”