PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar has informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that he was ready to take oath as a member of the upper house of parliament but the only hurdle in doing so was a Supreme Court suspension order of May 2018.
The announcement from the PML-N’s former finance minister, who has not taken oath since his election in 2018, has come since the PTI government accelerated the process of de-seating Dar to have the incumbent finance czar Shaukat Tarin elected in his place.
“The Supreme Court suspended the notification of my election through its order dated May 8, 2018,” the PML-N leader told The Express Tribune, adding that a civil appeal was still pending adjudication.
Dar maintained that he had sent a letter to the ECP on September 29, stating that he had not taken oath as a Senate member, nor was he in a position to take so because of the suspension order of the top court.
The former finance minister, who is currently in the UK, has also sent a copy of the letter to Senate chairman.
Apparently, the letter has disturbed the government’s plan to make way for Tarin to secure a Senate seat in Dar’s place despite President Arif Alvi promulgating the Election (Third Amendment) Ordinance of 2021, whereby a new section 72-A (seat to become vacant on not taking oath) was inserted in the Election Act, 2017, to de-seat him.
The ordinance was issued as Tarin must be elected to the legislature in order to continue as the finance minister for longer than six months after his appointment in April.
However, the plan has hit a snag as Dar is not just ready to take oath, but has suggested different ways of doing so without coming to Pakistan.
Commenting on the development, Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government had now sought the attorney general for Pakistan’s legal opinion on the matter.
Tarin would be elected from Lahore “if there is no legal hurdle” in doing so, he added.
Citing health grounds for not being able to travel, Dar said he was ready to take oath virtually just like a forensic expert, Robert Radley, was allowed to record his testimony via video link in the Panamagate trial or at the High Commission for Pakistan in London if the Senate chairman “nominated” someone as allowed in the Constitution.
“Joe Biden [US President] had taken oath from a hospital in 1973 after an automobile accident had claimed the lives of his wife and infant daughter,” Dar added.
He referred to Article 65 (oath of members) read with Article 255 (oath of office) of the Constitution, which permits him to take oath from London.
Article 255(2) states: “Where, under the Constitution, an oath is required to be made before a specified person and, for any reason, it is impracticable for the oath to be made before that person, it may be made before such other person as may be nominated by that person.”
“I can’t be de-notified as the delay is not willful but it is because of the suspension order,” Dar stated in the letter, while referring to the newly inserted section in the Ordinance
“Accordingly, the provisions of the Ordinance are not, per se, applicable to me,” he added.
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He reiterated that he was ready to take oath as and when the civil appeal pending before the apex court was decided or the suspension order withdrawn.
Terming the allegation that he was never notified by the ECP as “baseless”, Dar claimed that he was elected to a technocrat seat on March 3, 2018, and the commission had notified him on March 9, 2018, in terms of Section 124 (declaration of result of election) of the Election Act, 2017.
Section 72-A states that the “seat of a returned candidate shall become vacant, if he willfully does not make oath within sixty days from the date of the first sitting of the Assembly, the Senate or the local government or within forty days of the commencement of the Elections (Third Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, as the case may be.”
The PML-N leader claimed that his nomination to Senate was challenged but it was later dismissed by a division bench of the Lahore High Court on March 2, 2018.
The judgment, he added, was appealed before the top court and the ECP notification was suspended on May 8, 2018.
Had there been no court order, Dar’s time without taking oath would have completed on October 13 under the new Ordinance and government would have requested the Senate chairman to declare the seat vacant and hold an election for it.