The 21-year disqualification on holding a public office imposed on Nawaz Sharif by the Attock Accountability Court in the helicopter case in July 2000 was not waived in the presidential pardon granted to him.
This disqualification has now become a major basis for Nawaz Sharif being barred from contesting the forthcoming by-elections by a three-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC).
“This disqualification and non-waiver of the ‘conviction’ (only the sentence was pardoned) in the plane hijacking case have been a sword of Damocles hanging over Nawaz Sharif’s head,” a legal expert explained to this correspondent.
The pardon order dated Dec 9, 2000 in which Nawaz Sharif’s sentences were waived read, “Chief Executive’s Secretariat Islamabad, Subject: Grant of Pardon, In terms of Article 45 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the President is advised to:- (a) remit the sentence of imprisonment for life awarded to Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif by the High Court of Sindh in its judgement dated October 30 2000 in special A.T. (anti-terrorism) Appeal No 43 of 2000 under Section 402B of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 7(ii) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and, (b) remit the sentence of R.I. for 14 years awarded to Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif by the Accountability Court Attock Fort in its judgement dated July 22, 2000 in reference No 2 of 2000 under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance 1999. (Pervez Musharraf) Chief Executive of Pakistan and Chairman Joint Chief of Staff and Chief of Army, 9 December 2000. The President: Approved, sentences remitted.”
There is no mention in this order of waiver of Nawaz Sharif’s 21-year disqualification to hold public office, which the Attock Fort accountability court had imposed on him. Article 45 says that the President shall have powers to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.
The four-page petition signed by Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif and Hussain Nawaz had contained no conditions attached to the Sharifs’ exile to Jeddah on December 10, 2000.
They had, however, sought that the sentences of imprisonment awarded to Nawaz by the anti-terrorist court be “waived” to enable him to proceed abroad for medical treatment. It was also stated, “… the petitioners may not be prosecuted in respect of any alleged past conduct”.
On the basis of this document, which was a petition addressed to the president, the then chief executive general Pervez Musharraf advised the then President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar on December 9, 2000 to remit the sentences given to Nawaz Sharif.