Pakistan’s parliament on Monday where the ruling party PML-N holds majority bulldozed the amended Election Bill 2017 through the National Assembly (lower house) despite strong protests from opposition lawmakers, removing the hurdle for deposed PM Nawaz Sharif in becoming the chief of the ruling party again.
Sharif resigned as prime minister in July after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not declaring a source of income. He was also forced to step down as president of PML-N, though he kept control of the party and installed Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a loyalist, as prime minister.
Sharif on Monday morning appeared before an anti-corruption court and is expected to be indicted next week, along with three of his children.
The veteran leader denies any wrongdoing and has alleged there was a conspiracy against him.
Included in the bill is a controversial amendment that will allow politicians disqualified from holding public office to head a political party.
The bill was passed amidst a ruckus as opposition lawmakers protested what they saw as a law designed to accommodate a single individual — ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
The bill had already been passed by the National Assembly and was returned to the lower house on Monday for fresh votes on the Senate’s amendments.
Given the PML-N’s majority in the lower house, it was expected to be smooth sailing.
Now the bill will land on President Mamnoon Hussain’s desk for a signature approving it as law.
According to several legal experts and political observers, the amendment is bound to be challenged in the Supreme Court on grounds it is “against the spirit of the Constitution” and aimed to ‘benefit an individual.’
Enraged opposition lawmakers tore copies of the bill and threw them onto the speaker’s dais as he announced its passage. The president is expected to sign it into law soon.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) senior leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the clause pertaining to the eligibility of parliamentarians to hold party office was being removed solely to protect the ousted prime minister.
Jamaat-i-Islami lawmaker Sahibzada Tariqullah said it was condemnable that the legislation could allow a person who had been disqualified by the Supreme Court to hold office
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid stated that democracy would suffer if the bill was passed.
“This law is being passed for one person,” Rasheed said. “I am going to the Supreme Court,” he declared.
“We know what games they [the ruling party] are going to play in the country,” Rasheed said.
Rana Afzal Khan, a PML-N lawmaker told Reuters, “We feel very strongly Nawaz Sharif has to lead our party. He’s the symbol of unity in our party.”
Khan said Sharif was battling to assert “civilian supremacy” and boost democracy.