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Supreme Court of Pakistan Overturns Lifetime Disqualification for Lawmakers

Supreme Court of Pakistan Overturns Lifetime Disqualification for Lawmakers

ISLAMABAD: In a significant decision, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday overturned the lifetime disqualification of lawmakers, revoking its prior ruling that barred politicians from contesting elections indefinitely. This development is a positive sign for prominent political figures eyeing participation in the upcoming polls on February 8.

The Supreme Court clarified that individuals disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) cannot be permanently barred from running in elections, setting aside its landmark judgment in the Samiullah Baloch case. The seven-member larger bench, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, conducted live hearings on the case, providing transparency through the apex court’s website.

The bench delivered the verdict with a 6-1 majority, with Justice Yahya Afridi dissenting from his fellow judges, supporting the court’s previous judgment.

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The legal dilemma emerged when parliament amended the Elections Act 2017, limiting the disqualification period for politicians to five years, contrary to the Supreme Court’s order, which considered Article 62(1)(f) disqualification as “permanent.”

This decision opens the door for leaders like Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jahangir Tareen of Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) to participate in elections after being previously disqualified for life.

Chief Justice Isa emphasized the urgency of the decision due to the issued election schedule. In a previous hearing, he expressed that a lifetime ban from parliament was “against Islam,” quoting a verse from Surah Sajdah that underscores the distinction between humans and their deeds.

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The Supreme Court, in its written order, stated that Article 62(1)(f) is not self-executory and lacks provisions for the disqualification procedure and duration. The order highlighted that reading a lifelong disqualification into the Constitution, as done in the Samiullah Baloch case, contradicts citizens’ fundamental right to contest elections.

The court ruled that until a law is enacted to execute Article 62(1)(f), it functions as a guideline for voters rather than imposing a lifetime disqualification. The judgment overturned the interpretation in the Samiullah Baloch case, emphasizing the need for a harmonious interpretation of the Constitution’s provisions.

Justice Afridi, in his dissenting opinion, maintained that the lack of qualification under Article 62(1)(f) is not permanent but effective only during the period specified by the court’s declaration. He affirmed the legal validity of the Samiullah Baloch case.

With Section 232(2) of the Elections Act, 2017, prescribing a five-year disqualification period, the court concluded that examining its validity and scope was unnecessary in this case.