Nawaz Sharif is set to be re-elected as the president of Pakistan’s ruling PML-N on Tuesday as Parliament on Monday passed a controversial bill, paving the way for the ousted prime minister’s return.
Sharif, 67, had to step down as the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) after he was disqualified as the prime minister by the Supreme Court on July 28 in the Panama Papers scandal.
The Election Reforms Bill 2017, whose copies were torn by the protesting opposition parties in the National Assembly (NA) -- the lower house of the Parliament—has a clause that allows politicians disqualified from holding public office to head a political party.
The bill had already been passed by the NA and the Senate -- the upper house of the Parliament—but was returned to the lower house for fresh votes on the Senate’s amendments.
According to PML-N sources, the new bill would be signed by the President tomorrow after which it would become a law and enable Sharif to be elected as the party chief.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) senior leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the Clause 203 was against the spirit of the Constitution and was incorporated to accommodate Sharif.
“Sharif has been disqualified under the Article 62 of the Constitution and cannot hold any office,” Qureshi said and announced to challenge it in the Supreme Court.
Pakistan Peoples Party, Jamaat-i-Islami and Awami Muslim League also opposed the bill, which was introduced by Law Minister Zahid Hamid.
The protest, however, could not stop the government from getting the bill passed in the National Assembly where the ruling PML-N party enjoys a majority.
Earlier, the Central Working Committee of the PML-N passed a resolution reposing its confidence in the leadership of Sharif, Pakistani media reported.
The leaders also agreed to amend the party’s Constitution so that any person could assume the presidency even if that person did not hold public office, Dawn newspaper reported.
Read | Know how it is possible for Nawaz Sharif to become PML-N chief again
PML-N chairman Raja Zafarul Haq presided over the CWC session, which was also attended by Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and interim president Senator Sardar Yaqub Nasir.
Earlier in the day, an informal advisory session was held after Nawaz returned to Punjab House after appearing before an accountability court.
Nawaz had appeared before the Accountability Court today after being summoned in connection with three graft cases prepared by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against him and his family in the Panama Papers case.
However, he was not formally charged with a crime as his lawyer argued that all of the accused in the case must be present in court before they could be indicted. The accused Nawaz; his children Hussain, Hassan, and Maryam; and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar are now expected to appear on October 9 to be formally indicted.
The court has issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the men and a bailable warrant for Maryam, likely keeping in mind that she may need to stay with her ailing mother in London.
The PML-N has also convened a meeting of its general council today and tomorrow to formally begin the process of re-electing Sharif as the party’s president.
Earlier, there had been reports that the ousted prime minister would fly to London on Thursday to be with his wife, Kulsoom, who has been undergoing treatment for throat cancer at a private hospital in London.