ECP puts off plea against Maryam till Sept 11

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan on Wednesday adjourned the hearing of a petition filed against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz for holding party office, following her conviction in a corruption reference by an accountability court.

During a hearing of the case, Barrister Zafarullah, the lawyer for Maryam Nawaz, could not appear before the commission. The associate lawyer requested the three-member bench, headed by the chief election commissioner (CEC), to grant him more time to furnish arguments.

The CEC, Justice (retd) Sardar Muhammad Raza, said that they had intended to finish the case on Wednesday. However, the bench accepted the request and directed the lawyer to present arguments on the apex court’s verdict regarding disqualification from party post.

The bench gave the lawyer a week’s time and postponed the hearing till September 11. It directed the lawyer to present his arguments on the next date of hearing.

The petition was filed in May by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers — including Farrukh Habib, Malaika Bokhari, Kanwal Shauzab and Javeria Zafar — contending that Maryam could not hold any party position following her conviction by a court on July 6, 2018.

Her lawyer Barrister Zafarullah Khan rejected the petition as non-maintainable. He had requested the ECP to dismiss the plea, arguing that there was no restriction in the Constitution or the Election Act on a convicted person from holding a party post.

He further argued that Maryam had not been elected for the post of PML-N vice president, stressing that her selection to the position did not affect the rights of any of the petitioners. He contended that Maryam was given the position on the basis of the PML-N constitution.

The counsel for the petitioner had rebutted the arguments and said that in the case of Nawaz Sharif, the Supreme Court had used Article 62 and 63 to disqualify him from holding a party position and that the same can be used for Maryam as well.

Maryam was made one of the 16 vice presidents of the party along with Hamza Shahbaz in a major party reshuffle earlier this year. In July 2018, an accountability court in Islamabad had convicted her in the Avenfield properties corruption reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Maryam was sentenced to seven years for abetment after she was found “instrumental in concealment of the properties of her father” and another one year for non-cooperation with NAB. She was disqualified from contesting polls after being convicted.

However, in January, the apex court had upheld an Islamabad High Court verdict, ordering the suspension of prison sentences awarded to Maryam and her father.

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