The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday reserved its judgment on the petition of ruling PTI’s former senator Faisal Vawda who challenged his lifetime disqualification as a lawmaker.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had declared Vawda ineligible to hold public office and also rescinded the notification of his election as a senator last Wednesday.
Vawda’s counsel Advocate Waseem Sajjad appeared before a bench headed by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah.
He argued that the ECP was not a court of law, therefore, it lacks authority to disqualify Vawda for life.
“The ECP cannot invoke Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and disqualify Vawda for life,” the lawyer contended.
At this, Justice Athar Minallah remarked: “The affidavit had been submitted in light of a Supreme Court order [requiring a certificate for the renunciation of foreign nationalities]. You are basing your arguments on technical grounds.”
The chief justice asked Advocate Sajjad to point out the flaw in ECP’s decision.
He went on to say that the apex court had issued the order and made the submission of the affidavit a must. It also warned of serious consequences if the statement in the affidavit was found to be false, he added.
“Would the SC have investigated the authenticity of the affidavit [itself],” the chief justice asked, adding that ECP was supposed to carry out the inquiry and send it to the apex court with the report that these are the consequences for submitting a false affidavit.
The court told the lawyer to prove the purity of Vawda’s intentions, based on the argument he didn’t hold dual nationality at the time of the submission of affidavit.
“Did [Vawda] give up his US nationality before he submitted his nomination papers or not?” Justice Minallah inquired.
He also inquired about the date of renunciation of the US citizenship, and if the certificate proved it has been submitted.
At this, Advocate Sajjad maintained that the ECP can only probe the falsity or otherwise of the affidavit but the procedure after that has to be considered.
Responding to the query about the submission of the renunciation of certificate, the lawyer said that the petitioner [of the plea seeking Vawda’s disqualification] also didn’t submit the certificate proving they surrendered their other nationalities.
“Lifetime disqualification is a death sentence for a politician,” he added.
At this, Justice Minallah remarked that many politicians have got this “death penalty” and reserved the verdict on Vawda’s plea.
The ECP, while announcing the verdict for the PTI leader’s disqualification, had directed him to turn in all financial benefits and privileges he had been enjoying as a Senator within two months.
It stated that Vawda can still reach out to the Supreme Court to challenge the verdict for his disqualification.
THE CASE: Vawda had won the 2018 general election from NA-249 Karachi constituency.
In January 2020, an investigative report published in a section of the press had revealed that Vawda may have committed perjury by falsely declaring in an oath to the ECP that he did not hold any foreign nationality.
According to the rport, Vawda was in possession of a US passport at the time he filed his nomination papers on June 11, 2018. The minister remained an American national even at the time the scrutiny of his nomination papers was completed.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan in a past judgement has categorically ruled that candidates who hold dual nationality are supposed to submit a renunciation certificate of the foreign nationality along with their nomination papers.
The same judgement has previously led to the disqualification of various lawmakers, notable among whom Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senators Saadia Abbasi and Haroon Akhtar.
Therefore, PPP MNA Qadir Khan Mandokhail, Asif Mehmood and Mian Faisal, had sought Vawda’s disqualification maintaining that he had concealed his US nationality while submitting his nomination papers to the returning officer for the National Assembly seat, and refrained from stating the date of his renunciation of the US nationality despite being asked by the ECP several times.
During the trial, Vawda sought multiple extensions and received many warnings for the submission of his arguments to counter the prosecution’s stance.