Justice Faisal Arab, while hearing the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) foreign funding case on Thursday, questioned if a failure to declare a loan as an asset could lead to the application of Article 62 of the Constitution.
He was commenting on PML-N lawyer Akram Sheikh's argument that PTI chief Imran Khan should be disqualified for not declaring a loan that he received from his former wife, Jemima, as an asset.
The case, filed by PML-N's Hanif Abbasi, is being heard by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar. The petition asks for the disqualification of Imran Khan and PTI Secretary General Jahangir Tareen for the non-disclosure of assets, ownership of offshore companies, and for PTI being a foreign-aided party.
Responding to the judge's remark, Sheikh said that the Supreme Court had disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for not declaring a salary that he could have received from his son's company in its ruling on the Panama Papers case.
Justice Atta Bandiyal, however, maintained that since the Panama Papers case was related to the Sharif family's assets, the comparison was invalid. He also suggested that Sheikh read the SC's verdict before commenting on it.
Sheikh also raised questions about the PTI chief's statements over the purchase and ownership of his Bani Gala residence.
"He [Khan] changed his statements four times," he claimed, adding that Imran Khan could not have bought the property in Jemima's name as she had already decided to leave Pakistan at the time it was purchased. The chief justice, however, remarked that the matter was "between husband and wife and should not be discussed in court". He further said that Imran Khan could not have declared Bani Gala as an asset [at the time] as it was in Jemima's name.
In December, 2016, Khan had told the Election commission of Pakistan (ECP) that he had borrowed money from his ex-wife to pay for the Bani Gala land, which he had purchased on March 13, 2002 for Rs43.5 million — an amount that, according to Khan, was payable in instalments. He had also said that the property was purchased in Jemima's name; however, she had transferred it to his [Khan] name as a gift after their divorce.
'PTI's source of income are its funds'
Sheikh accused the PTI of not auditing its funds, saying that in the 1988 Benazir Bhutto case, the court had ruled that every political party should account for the sources of its funds in accordance with the law under Article 17(3) of the Constitution.
He said that in 2013, the PTI had received more than Rs40 million in funds and insisted that the sources of the money must be investigated. He urged the judges to let the ECP determine whether the funds were illegal and set a time frame for the body to investigate, adding that the court must form a policy regarding foreign funding of political parties.
The judges asked whether the party that Sheikh was representing [PML-N] maintains its records.
Niazi Services Limited
The PML-N lawyer also raised arguments over Khan's offshore company, Niazi Services Limited (NSL), claiming that documents submitted by the PTI chairman were inaccurate. He said that NSL must own more assets since it was in existence from 1983 to 2015, yet Khan only submitted records of two years. The bench told him to present documents to support his claim.
According to the lawyer, Khan's apartment in London was sold for 690,000 pounds in 2003 and the sum was then transferred into NSL's account.
"127,000 pounds remained in the account which were not declared by the PTI chief," he claimed.
Refuting Sheikh's claim that Khan was the owner of NSL and not the London apartment that he bought [through the company], the chief justice said that ownership is determined by assets. Khan was neither a shareholder, nor the director of NSL and was not involved in its administrative activities, he maintained.
Sheikh insisted that Khan should have declared NSL as an asset, even if it had negligible monetary worth. The judges said that his point had been noted.
The bench inquired if Sheikh was accusing Khan of money laundering, to which the lawyer responded in the negative.
The case was adjourned until further notice.