The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday continued hearing a petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi seeking the disqualification of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) leaders Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen for not disclosing their assets, owning offshore companies and receiving foreign funding for the PTI.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar heard the petitioner's arguments, which included questions regarding the procedure adopted for the acquisition of land for Imran Khan's Bani Gala residence.

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PML-N's counsel, Akram Sheikh, in today's hearing raised several questions regarding the source of the money used to purchase Khan's Bani Gala residence.

"How did Imran Khan find the money for his Bani Gala residence?" Sheikh asked.

Khan had earlier claimed in an assets declaration that he had received the land, measuring 300 kanals, as a gift from ex-wife Jemima Khan, but during the hearing of a case by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) last year, said he had purchased the property.

Khan had told the ECP that he had borrowed money from his ex-wife to pay for the Bani Gala land, which he said he had purchased on March 13, 2002 for Rs43.5 million — an amount that he said was payable in instalments.

Sheikh observed, "Although it would be understandable if the property had been transferred to Imran Khan before his divorce in 2002, what eludes my understanding is how assets can be transferred to Khan in 2005 after his divorce from Jemima Khan."

Imran Khan and Jemima Khan had parted ways in June 2004.

In yesterday's hearing, Akram had argued that the property was benami and that it could not have been a gift, to which the chief justice had responded that it "was a matter between a husband and wife", and "if Jemimah declared the property as a gift, then what objections can be raised against it?"

Justice Umar Ata Bandial also asked if a transfer of assets between a divorced couple would event amount to a violation of Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution, which require that a parliamentarian be 'truthful' and 'honest'. Sheikh replied in the affirmative, insisting that a benami transaction between Jemima and Imran Khan would fall squarely in the realm of Article 62, 63.

Other arguments

CJP Nisar pointed out that Abbasi's petition accused Imran Khan of five possible violations of the law, with the most significant allegation being PTI's 'foreign funding'.

The CJP noted that the PML-N petition raises questions regarding the money trail for Khan's London flat, transparency behind the money he received from Jemima Khan, the purchase and acquisition of the property on which his Bani Gala residence is situated, and the allegation that Khan had not declared his off-shore company, 'Niazi Services', to the ECP.

Sheikh urged the court to merge the on-going petition against Imran Khan with the Panama case, insisting that the accusations made in both cases were similar and that Imran Khan was an important political figure who deserved the same level of scrutiny that the prime minister is being subjected to.

However, the CJP was of the opinion that if the court started hearing petitions for the dismissal of ordinary parliamentarians, it would open a Pandora's box of frivolous petitions seeking the same.

Sheikh objected saying that Khan was no ordinary parliamentarian. Rather, he said, Khan was the leader of a major political party.

"After all," Sheikh reminded the court, "When PTI's Imran Khan had asked his workers to lock the capital city down, did the apex court not act?"

During yesterday's hearing, the court had asked Hanif Abbasi's counsel Akram Sheikh to present 'concrete evidence' to prove financial wrong-doing in Imran Khan's acquisition of the Bani Gala land, stating, "a person cannot be disqualified on mere assumptions".

To ascertain facts, the SC had given the ECP until Friday to present documents that Khan had submitted to them in 2002. In addition, the apex court solicited a response from the PTI chief by Wednesday. PTI's counsel, Anwar Mansoor, who will be substituting for Naeem Bukhari, is expected to fulfill the court's requirements by tomorrow.

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