Disqualified person should not hold office of political party: Senate

ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Wednesday adopted the joint opposition’s resolution with majority vote, resolving that a person not eligible to be elected as a member of parliament on account of being disqualified to be a lawmaker should not become an office-bearer of a political party.

After the voice vote, the Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani went for headcount and it was found out that against the government’s 28, the combined opposition’s 52 senators were present in the House in support of the resolution, which was submitted to the Senate Secretariat a day earlier for the opposition’s requisitioned session.

Interestingly, Senator Mian Attique Shiekh of MQM, who had sided with the government previously, this time supported the resolution. Moreover, PTI’s Nauman Wazir Khattak and John Kenneth Williams, who were absent during the voting process last month on a key amendment by PPP to bar a disqualified person to become a party chief, were also around during the headcount on the resolution. 

“Though the resolution has symbolic significance, yet it is an important development,” said Senator Shibli Faraz of PTI, who when asked about senators Khattak and Williams, confirmed both were present in the House. It is pertinent that five senators, belonging to Fata, also joined the opposition for passage of the resolution. The resolution says, that this House resolves that whereas an anomalous position has arisen in Pakistan, where a person disqualified to be a member of parliament can become an office bearer including the head of any political party.

“And whereas this may enable an elected person, who gives up the citizenship of Pakistan, or who is declared to be of unsound mind by a count of law, or who is otherwise disqualified by a court of competent jurisdiction to be a member of parliament, to determine the policies and take decisions of any party, including the majority party from outside the parliament,” it continued.

The resolution says, “and whereas parliament itself is thus exposed to becoming hostage to a person who himself is barred from entering it: now therefore, this House resolves that a person who is not eligible to be elected as member of parliament on account of being disqualified to be a member of parliament should not become an office-bearer of any political party.”

Briefly speaking on the resolution before being put to vote, Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan, who moved it in the House, said the resolution was itself a speaking resolution, which explains reasons, why a disqualified person should not become the head of a party. He added similarly, a person, declared unsound by a court, could influence the parliament through his decisions, as a party head. He wondered how a person not competent to enter parliament, should lead a party.

Leader of the House Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq, Law Minister Zahid Hamid opposed the resolution and said it was a needless move just to erase the embarrassment; they suffered when the Elections Bill, 2017 was adopted by one vote on the related matter last month and their amendment was rejected through one vote.

They insisted there were totally different procedures for legislation and passage of a resolution and that a resolution just could not rollback a piece of legislation, adopted through a genuine manner. They contended that the opposition, which accused the government of bulldozing, wanted to push through a needless resolution for which it had made full preparation. 

The law minister said that there was no room for taking back the legislation after having been passed by the two houses of parliament and the president signed it. He termed the language used in the resolution as ridiculous, insisting it was a party’s right to elect its head. He charged the resolution showed the opposition’s mala fide intention.

Leader of the House also noted that the matter was pending in a court of law, whereas there was no room for such resolution undoing a piece of legislation, having become a law. He asked the opposition not to push the resolution through the House, having no consequences on the law now.

Earlier, the chairman wanted to take the five issues listed on the agenda under the motion (filed by senators of all the opposition parties in the House), moved by Aitzaz Ahsan in sequence and Raja Zafar also called for adopting the same procedure, followed a day earlier.

However, Aitzaz insisted that the item No 5 i.e. the resolution should be taken first. To this, the chairman asked him if the opposition was ready to put aside four other items, listed for discussion and Aitzaz said they wanted the House to adopt the resolution.