SC to take up Panamagate petitions today

Updated 20 Oct 2016


ISLAMABAD: One of the petitioners in the Panama Papers leaks case — set to be taken up today (Thursday) — has moved the Supreme Court, seeking a restraining order against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) plans to lock down the capital city.

“It is respectfully prayed to restrain PTI chief Imran Khan from sit-in (dharna) and to close Islamabad [as it is] prejudicial to public peace and order and [the] security of Pakistan and direct the interior secretary to restrain party workers from assembling,” Advocate Tariq Asad pleaded in his petition.

Mr Asad had earlier, in his capacity as president of the Shuhada Foundation Trust, also filed a similar petition seeking a declaration from the apex court that PTI’s Aug 14, 2014, sit-in in the capital was illegal and prejudicial to public peace and security of Pakistan.

Read: Can a PTI crowd bring down an elected government?

He is also one of the five applicants whose petitions on the Panamagate scam case will be taken up for hearing by a three-judge Supreme Court bench, consisting of Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, on Thursday.

Apart from Advocate Asad, the PTI, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), Barrister Zafar­ullah Khan of Watan Party and All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed have filed petitions seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members.

PTI’s plan to ‘lock down’ Islamabad challenged

On March 18, 2016, a five-judge Supreme Court had disposed of a set of petitions filed by a number of bar associations against the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s sit-in on the grounds that these petitions had borne fruit.

In the fresh application, Mr Asad has contended that the proposed PTI lockdown of Islamabad was beyond the scope of their right to freedom of movement and right to freedom of assembly, guaranteed under Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution.

Islamabad is not Imran Khan’s personal estate and its residents are not his slaves that he can torture them by calling workers from all over Pakistan and making locals’ lives miserable by blocking the roads, shutting down their businesses, blocking children’s access to educational institutions, not allowing patients to reach hospitals for treatment and depriving labourers of their livelihood, the petition emphasised.

The Supreme Court must determine whether the PTI chief is above the law and all organs of state are helpless before him, it contended.

The planned lockdown is not a political issue, rather it involves the question of protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, particularly those of Islamabad, the petition contended. It added that it was the constitutional obligation of the apex court to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution and to protect the rights of the citizens.

The petition also emphasised that demanding the resignation of an elected prime minister in an unlawful manner was unwarranted, extra constitutional and illegitimate expectation which has no sanction of law, being in contravention of Article 4 of the Constitution.

The petition said that the federal government had the right to call in the armed forces in aid of civil power under Article 245 of the Constitution in case there were apprehensions that civil law enforcement agencies would not be able to maintain peace in certain parts of the country.

Panama Papers case

On Thursday, Advocate Asad is expected to bring up the contentions raised in his fresh petition when he will be asked by the Supreme Court to argue on his original petition, where he had asked for the constitution of a high-level judicial commission to probe the investments allegedly made by prime minister’s family members and others through offshore companies.

Since Thursday’s proceedings will be a preliminary hearing, the court may issue notices to different respondents named in the petitions and will ask the federal government to come up with answers by furnishing para-wise comments on the points highlighted in the petitions.

PTI’s petition, to be argued by Hamid Khan and Naeem Bukhari, asks the court to order Interior Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan to take steps to place the names of the prime minister and his family members — named in the Panama Papers — on the Exit Control List.

The petition also seeks orders for the law secretary and the NAB chairman to initiate claims on behalf of the government for the recovery of the properties in question. The FBR should also be directed to minutely scrutinise the tax returns and asset declarations of the prime minister and the entire Sharif family, the petition asks.

The JI’s petition asks for orders to the federal government to arrest the culprits, recover and bring public money, which was illegally transferred from Pakistan to offshore companies, back to the country.

But it was Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the Watan Party who had asked the court to order the constitution of a parliamentary committee or panel to look into the Panamagate scandal.

Sheikh Rashid has requested the Supreme Court to constitute an inquiry commission along the lines of the Memogate Commission, to investigate the allegations leveled against the family of the prime minister.

Published in Dawn October 20th, 2016