Pakistan’s Supreme Court delivered a significant decision on Monday, overturning the lifetime disqualification for lawmakers. The ruling now stipulates that parliamentarians can be barred from holding office for a maximum of five years. This decision brings substantial relief to prominent politicians, including former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan.
In 2018, a five-member bench of the top court had previously declared that disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) would be a lifelong penalty. However, changes introduced in the Elections Act 2017 on June 26, 2023, by a coalition government led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), limited the disqualification to a five-year term.
The latest ruling by a seven-member bench, led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, establishes that no individual can face a lifelong ban from participating in elections if disqualified under Article 62(1)(f).
In a split decision of 6 to 1, the bench annulled the lifetime disqualification, contradicting the 2018 ruling by its own five-member bench that had previously upheld the lifetime ban.
Justice Yahya Afridi stood apart from the majority, expressing dissent and submitting a note in favor of maintaining the lifelong disqualification.
The ruling has definitively settled the long-standing controversy surrounding the duration of disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and the Elections Act 2017.
Mr. Sharif, a former prime minister and a leading contender for a fourth term in the upcoming February 8 general elections, faced disqualification in the Panama Papers case in 2017. Similarly, his rival Imran Khan, disqualified last year in the Toshakhana corruption case, also fell under the purview of the same law.