ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Monday submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) his much-awaited reply, which raised questions about what he had earlier said regarding the procedure adopted for the acquisition of land for his Banigala residence.

Mr Khan had claimed in his assets declaration that he had got the land measuring 300 kanals as a gift from ex-wife Jemima Khan but now he said he had purchased the property.

During a hearing, Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan said the decision on the disqualification references against Imran Khan and PTI secretary general Jehangir Tareen would be announced after the completion of arguments on Dec 15.

The commission also ad­jo­urn­ed until Dec 15 the hearing of a disqualification petition aga­inst retired Captain Moha­mmad Safdar, the son-in-law of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

See: How Islamabad's elite are destroying Bani Gala

The CEC was displeased with the attitude of lawyers, saying the commission had not seen the PTI chief’s written reply yet, though the same was being reported line-by-line by the electronic media.

“You take pleasure in giving arguments out of the courts,” he said and advised them to get verdicts outside as well.

In the written reply submitted to the ECP afterwards, Imran Khan said he had borrowed money from his ex-wife Jemima Khan to pay for the Banigala land. He said he had purchased the land on March 13, 2002 for Rs43.5 million and the amount was payable in instalments.

He said he initially paid Rs6.5m from his available resources in Pakistan, with the intention to fund the balance from the sale proceeds of his apartment in London. He said as the purchase deal was potentially in jeopardy because of delay in the sale transaction of the London apartment, his then wife Jemima agreed to provide funds to pay instalments.

“The short-term loan arrangement (between husband and wife) was implemented with the understanding that Mrs Khan would be repaid in the United Kingdom on completion of the sale of London apartment…”, the reply read.

The balance portion of the funds required to settle the remaining payments were remitted, from time to time through official banking channels. He said these funds were declared to the State Bank upon being converted to equivalent Pakistani rupees. The amount was paid to the seller through crossed cheques.

Imran Khan said that subsequent to the sale of the London apartment on March 2003, he repaid and refunded the equivalent amount to Jemima Khan in the United Kingdom.

“Mrs Jemima Khan was the actual and recorded owner of the Banigala land. In view of subsequent separation/divorce between the answering respondent and Mrs Jemima Khan, the Banigala land was transferred to the former through a gift on behalf of the latter.”

He said he had refused to claim any share from Jemima’s wealth which under the UK laws would have been 50 per cent of the total.

The PTI chief appended documents with the written reply to prove that full stamp duty payable on each transfer of the Banigala land had been paid and deposited with the treasury. There was no income or other tax incidence on such acquisition or transfer. “Therefore no question of tax evasion or any loss to the public exchequer...arises.”

About the allegation of non-declaration of his off-shore company, he said the only asset under M/s Niazi Services Ltd (NSL) was the London apartment that was sold in April 2003. Once the lone asset was sold, the NSL existed only on papers, without any asset.

He also dismissed allegations of misusing the 2002 amnesty scheme, laundering any undeclared asset or indulging in tax fraud.

He said he had deposited 12pc of the total cost of the London apartment as tax, even though strictly there was no mandatory requirement in terms of the scheme. He said there was neither obligation nor an income tax implication in Pakistan with regards to the acquisition of the London apartment which had been purchased by him in 1983 from tax-paid earnings abroad. He claimed that there was no mandatory obligation to declare it in Pakistan.

Tareen case

During the hearing of the disqualification reference against Mr Tareen, counsel for applicant Muhammad Khan Daha pleaded that there was contradiction in the agricultural income shown by Mr Tareen in his nomination papers and the one provided to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). He asked the ECP to summon the record from the FBR.

“Why did you not annex the record while submitting the reference with the speaker?” the CEC asked.

When the applicant’s counsel said the information was available but record was not, an ECP member wondered how the NA speaker had forwarded the reference to the ECP without perusing the record.

“Did we ask you to file a reference?” the CEC asked and said it was for the applicant to bring the record on which the reference was based.

Mr Tareen’s lawyer said the allegations pertained to pre-election matters. He said Mr Tareen was the highest taxpayer among members of the National Assembly. He pointed out that the inside trading took place in 2007 while Mr Tareen had been elected to the National Assembly in a bye-poll held in 2015.

Published in Dawn December 6th, 2016