The Prime Minister’s Oath
As of July 10, Nawaz Sharif has lost his moral authority to continue in office as the Prime Minister of Pakistan – this is the argument of the opposition parties. In response, Sharif and his ministers insist that he has the legal authority to continue. So, who is right?
An important concept acknowledged by the US Constitution, but ignored by almost every law derived from it is the difference between legal authority and moral authority. Legal authority is defined by people. It is optional and is laid out clearly in words. Its scope and limitations are stated. Such authority can be transferred from one person to another by agreement or contract.
As for moral authority, that is defined by God. It is not optional and only a general notion of it can be written down, hence making it impossible to fully define.
The Constitution of Pakistan 1973, through Articles 62 and 63, talk about qualifications and disqualifications of members of Majlis-e-Shoora i.e. the National Assembly. Article 62 requires a member to be ‘sadiq’ and ‘amin’. These are the titles attributed to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Ours is perhaps the only jurisdiction in the world which has such a stringent criteria in place for a parliamentarian. Yet, it is also one that is rarely ever implemented. Over here, a few hand in their resignations, voluntarily, even as serious allegations are slapped on.
But the Prime Minister is not just any member of the Parliament. He holds the most powerful office in the country. To give a better understanding of the PM’s role, as outlined in the Constitution, I have reproduced his oath below:
“I, (name), do swear solemnly that I am a Muslim and believe in the Unity and Oneness of Almighty Allah, the Books of Allah, the Holy Quran being the last of them, the Prophethood of Muhammad as the last of the Prophets and that there can be no Prophet after him, the Day of Judgment, and all the requirements and teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah;
That I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan;
That, as Prime Minister of Pakistan, I will discharge my duties, and perform my functions, honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan;
That I will strive to preserve the Islamic ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan;
That I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions;
That I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan;
That, in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor, affection or ill- will;
And that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as Prime Minister except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as Prime Minister.
May Allah Almighty help and guide me (A’meen).”
A quick skim through the wording and one realizes that the Prime Minister is placed at the highest pedestal in terms of following the law and Constitution. In a 2012 case of Dr Mubashir Hassan vs the Federation of Pakistan, wherein the then-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was tried and convicted, the court stated that, “Provisions of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, as well as their interpretation provide high moral authority to the functionaries, to discharge their duties for curbing corruption and corrupt practices, to achieve the object namely, conviction and effecting the recovery of national wealth, even before the trial, keeping in view the solid mechanism provided under Section 25 of the National Accountability Ordinance.” This places much more responsibility on the Prime Minister’s shoulders then any other government official.
It seems Sharif and his party do not understand the extent of the damage that the recent JIT report has caused. It clearly amounts to prima facie evidence against him through an investigation ordered by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It must be stated that apex courts across the world do not directly call for the resignation of a head of state. Instead, judgments are pronounced and the probable consequence is removal.
If Nawaz Sharif insists on continuing in office as the trial begins, he will be confronted with a serious conflict of interest. He is, after all, the appointing authority for the head of Federal Investigation Agency and has a strong say in appointing the Chair of the National Accountability Bureau.
You, Mr Sharif, are the Prime Minister of Pakistan. You took an oath to protect the sanctity of the office. It is not just your right to seek and be granted a fair trial, we, the people of Pakistan also want to see a fair trial of our system.
An earlier version of this article appeared on Geo. Republished here with permission.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organisation with which he might be associated.