Reversing the ECP’s decision, the Supreme Court on Friday revoked former PTI leader Faisal Vawda’s lifetime disqualification after he accepted misstating his dual nationality and apologised.
However, Vawda will remained disqualified till 2013 under Article 63(1)(c) of the Constitution, under which a legislator loses membership of parliament for one term only. He is eligible to contest the next general or Senate elections, the court order said.
Earlier in February this year, the (ECP) Election Commission of Pakistan had disqualified Vawda for concealing his US citizenship and directed him to return the salary and other benefits he received as a minister and as a member of the National Assembly within two months. It had also de-notified him as a senator.
Later, Vawda had contested his lifetime disqualification in the apex court on grounds that the ECP did not have the jurisdiction to disqualify him as a member of parliament.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ayesha A Malik, passed the judgment on an appeal filed by Vawda.
The three-member bench during the last hearing had summoned Vawda to give him a chance to express his regret for misstating his dual nationality before the top court.
“We can call the gentleman to express regrets that he misstated before the court by presenting an affidavit to claim that his sole nationality is Pakistani,” the chief justice had said.
“If the petitioner acknowledges his mistake, we will leave it to the electorate to decide his fate.”
In its order issued on Friday, the bench observed that Vawda stated before the court that he “regrets” the claim of renunciation of US nationality in his nomination papers for elections in Karachi’s NA-249 constituency on June 7, 2018.
“He states he had already applied for such renunciation before the date of filing the nomination [papers]. His certificate for the loss of US nationality was issued to him on June 25, 2018,” the court order read.
As a result of the difference of dates, he was disqualified from contesting elections under Article 63(1)(c), it added.
The apex court said although Vawda was elected as a senator in 2021, in order to demonstrate good faith, he was resigning from the Senate seat until the period of his disqualification expired.
“In view of the said statement, the petitioner has submitted his signed apology.”
The court directed Vawda to submit his resignation to the Senate chairperson and concluded that he was qualified to contest next general or Senate elections.
It started when The News reported in January 2020 that Vawda was a dual national at the time of filing his nomination papers to contest the 2018 general elections. Vawda submitted his nomination papers on June 11, 2018, which were approved by the election body a week later on June 18, the report said.
However, the PTI MNA applied for the renunciation of his nationality with the US consulate at Karachi four days after the fact on June 22, 2018, the report revealed.
Qadir Khan Mandokhel, Mian Faisal and Mian Asif Mehmood subsequently filed petitions in the ECP on January 21, 2020, seeking Vawda’s disqualification. A citizen, Dost Ali, also filed a similar petition in 2020 challenging Vawda’s election as a member of the National Assembly.
A petition was also submitted to the Islamabad High Court seeking Vawda’s disqualification. The court had directed the PTI leader to submit a reply.
Despite the issuance of several notices, he did not respond to the petition. In March 2021, Vawda resigned as an MNA after being elected as a senator and his lawyer contended that a dual nationality case against the lawmaker was “not valid now”.
However, the IHC held him responsible for submitting a false affidavit regarding his nationality and directed the ECP to proceed against him under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution which deals with disqualification.
In November 2021, the senator filed a petition with the IHC seeking to stay proceedings of the ECP in his disqualification case but the court rejected the appeal.