A three-member bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday began hearing a petition seeking the disqualification of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and PTI Secretary General Jehangir Tareen.
The petition, filed by the PML-N's Hanif Abbasi, accuses the two PTI leaders of not declaring their assets to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and seeks to unseat them based on alleged violations of the lncome Tax Ordinance 1979 and Peoples Act 1974.
The petition, which was accepted by the apex court in November last year, also claims that the PTI is a 'foreign-funded' party.
During Wednesday's hearing, Abbasi's counsel, Muhammad Akram Sheikh, began his arguments before Chief Justice Saqib Nasir, Justice Umar Ata Bindial and Justice Faisal Arab.
Shiekh's request to include the ECP and the Ministry of Interior as a party to the case was approved by the bench at the start of the hearing.
“If the need arises, we will call the Ministry of Interior and the National Accountability Bureau,” the chief justice said.
Proceeding with his arguments, Sheikh focused on giving details pertaining to foreign funds allegedly received by the PTI, which he said were in violation of the Political Parties Order which prohibits parties from receiving funding from abroad.
“PTI is operating on foreign funds,” Akram Sheikh told the bench, further alleging that the PTI leader's own off-shore companies had received $2.3 million beween 2010 and 2013.
“The details pertaining to the sum are available on the website of the US Department of Justice,” Sheikh added. “In 2015, PTI accepted $1m in political funding,” he added.
“$56m were obtained via Abraaj Company’s Tariq Shafi and no reasons and details for the sum were provided.”
"PTI has established an agent company to receive funding from Pakistanis residing in America," Shiekh told the bench, adding that the PTI had also written a letter to political agents in America seeking their cooperation.
Sheikh told the court that Khan had denied accepting foreign funding before the ECP and therefore should be disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution.
"On several occasion, Khan has admitted the establishment of Niazi Services Limited," Sheikh said, adding that Khan had failed, however, to mention the company in the list of assets submitted to the ECP.
Sheikh said Niazi Services Limited was closed down in 2015, yet there is no mention of any offshore companies in tax or election documents dated up till that year.
Sheikh also alleged that while Khan had started paying income tax in 1982, he had not provided details regarding irregularities worth 170,000 pounds sterling in his 1983 tax returns.
"Is it dishonesty to hide property?" the chief justice asked.
"Perhaps it can be accepted that Niazi Services is an off-shore company," the CJP added. "Is there a prohibition on Pakistanis acquiring property abroad?"
"There is no prohibition on acquiring property, but that property must be declared," the counsel said in response to the chief justice.
"It is necessary to declare such properties in tax returns," the chief justice said, adding that not doing so has its consequences.
The hearing was adjourned till Thursday.