By Rana Qaisar
ISLAMABAD: Mian Shahbaz Sharif could face some difficulty in retaining the chief ministership of the Punjab if some legal and constitutional questions are raised to challenge his eligibility under Article 223 of the Constitution, which may also consequently invoke the condition which bars a person from holding the office of prime minister or chief minister for more than two terms.
Article 223(2) says that a person can retain only one seat, if he is elected on more seats, by resigning from others. “…and if he does not so resign, all the seats to which he has been elected shall become vacant at the expiration of the said period of thirty days except the seat to which he has been elected last,” it says.
In Shahbaz Sharif’s case, he was declared elected from PP-48 Bhakkar earlier and as a consequence to this he was elected chief minister of the Punjab. However, he has not informed the Election Commission that he intends to retain this seat. The result of another seat (PP-10) Rawalpindi was notified two days ago. According to constitutional experts, this would invoke clause 3 of Article 223. “A person to whom clause (2) applies shall not take a seat in either House or the Provincial Assembly to which he has been elected until he has resigned (from) all but one of his seats,” clause 3 says.
Shahbaz had opted to get elected chief minister on the basis of his election on PP-48 without waiting for the result of PP-10 as provided in clause 3 of Article 223. “This in fact means that a person, who is a candidate for two or more seats for a house or Provincial Assembly, cannot take oath as a member unless he has decided which seat he will retain or immediately informs the Election Commission in this regard as soon as he takes oath as a member,” Barrister Omar Hassan Sajjad explained clause 3. He opined that a question might be raised that in pursuance of Article 223(3) Shahbaz could not retain PP-48 and therefore his election as chief minister might also be challenged.
“In this event, he might not retain the office of chief minister because if he is asked to take a fresh oath for the office of chief minister, the condition that a person cannot hold the office of chief minister for more than two terms will apply,” Barrister Omar Sajjad opined.
According to him, clause 4 of Article 223 will also apply in Shahbaz’s case. This clause says: “Subject to clause (2), if a member of either House or of a Provincial Assembly becomes a candidate for a second seat which, in accordance with clause (1), he may not hold concurrently with his first seat, then his first seat shall become vacant as soon as he is elected to the second seat.”
Shahbaz had first served as chief minister from 1997 to 1999 and his second term will start from the day he was elected chief minister on the basis of his election on PP-48. And if, as experts opine, his first seat is declared vacant and consequently he is asked to take a fresh oath, the condition of two-terms will stop him from becoming chief minister for the third time as he would be considered to have already held this office for two terms.
Daily Times, 25/6/2008