ISLAMABAD: In a major blow to Nawaz Sharif's political career, Pakistan's Supreme Court today disqualified the ousted prime minister as the chief of his own party and struck down all decisions taken by him as the party head.
Sharif, 68, was disqualified as the prime minister by the apex court in the Panama Papers case in July last year under Article 62 for failing to declare a receivable salary as an asset.
Today's ruling is seen as a major blow to the political career of Sharif, who leads the country's most powerful political family.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar today ruled that it is mandatory for a party chief to fulfil the requirements of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution as a party head is powerful and political parties control the government.
"A party head must necessarily possess the qualifications and be free of the disqualifications contemplated in Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution," the bench ruled.
"It is crucial for parliamentarians to be of good conduct to run the affairs of the Parliament," Chief Justice Nisar said.
After Sharif's disqualification as prime minister last year, the ruling PML-N amended the Constitution to allow him to retain his chairmanship of the party.
As a result, the Elections Act 2017 was passed by Parliament. The act paved the way for Sharif to become the PML-N chief after he stepped down as party president following his disqualification by the apex court in July last year.
Under the old law, a person disqualified from holding a public office was also barred from leading a political party but the bar was removed by the parliament when it passed Elections Act 2017.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Awami Muslim League, Pakistan People's Party and others petitioned the apex court against the Elections Act 2017.
The apex court began hearing the case in January 2018.
While reading out the verdict, Chief Justice Nisar said that a person who is disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution is not eligible to sign on any document needed to nominate someone to the National Assembly or Senate.
"The Election Commission is directed to remove the name of Nawaz Sharif as president/Party Head of PML-N from all relevant records,” Chief Justice Nisar said.
He ruled that "all steps taken, all orders passed by Nawaz Sharif are also declared to be as if they had never been taken."
The verdict will not affect the PML-N's registration as a party. However, decisions taken by Sharif will be nullified, including tickets issued by him for the Senate elections.
With the judgement, it is possible that the Senate elections scheduled for March 3 will have to be postponed.
Referring to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's speech in Parliament on Monday, in which he criticised the judiciary for "insulting" elected officials, Justice Nisar said that the judiciary had never called any politician a "thief".
Instead, the judge said that he had praised the country's leadership and added that he does not "owe anyone an explanation".
Sharif and some of his family members are facing charges relating to their ownership of posh properties in London.
Three cases were registered by the National Accountability Bureau against Sharif, his children and son-in-law in the court on September 8.
Sharif has held several rallies in different parts of Pakistan since his ouster. He has targeted the judiciary for removing him from the office of the prime minister and also come up with 'give respect to the ballot' slogan.