ISLAMABAD: The counsel representing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) secretary general Jahangir Tareen in disqualification proceedings before the Supreme Court conceded on Thursday that the two individuals — in whose name shares were traded in 2005 — were indeed employed by his client.

At the last hearing, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had asked Advocate Sikandar Bashir Mohmand — who represents Mr Tareen — to inquire whether Allah Yar and Haji Khan were his cook and driver. Shares of United Sugar Mills Limited (USML) — an entity up for sale — were purchased by the two men and eventually led to the PTI leader facing allegations of ‘insider trading’.

When proceedings commenced on Wednesday on a petition filed by local Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi, the counsel admitted that both men were employees of Mr Tareen and had been associated with him for the past several years.

Allah Yar has been with Mr Tareen since 1975 and is the caretaker of the Lodhran farms, whereas Haji Khan has been working for the PTI secretary general since 1980 and is in charge of his residences in Lahore and Islamabad.

PTI leader’s lawyer terms anti-insider trading rules ‘bad law’, says fine cannot be considered ‘conviction’

When the chief justice inquired how much the two men bought the shares for, the counsel cited the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) reply before the court, explaining that both individuals made a cumulative gain of Rs70.8 million from the sale of the mill’s shares.

Later, Mr Tareen had to pay a penalty of Rs70 million when the SECP imposed a fine on him over allegations of insider trading in 2005.

On Thursday, the chief justice also asked the parties involved in the case to assist the court in establishing whether penalties paid by an individual can be considered part of the public exchequer.

The court’s directions came when the counsel — trying to establish that the fine imposed could not be considered a ‘conviction’ — argued that the payment under sections 15-A and 15-B of the Security Exchange Ordinance 1969 had nothing to do with the consolidated funds and that penalties imposed under it never went to the public exchequer.

Since this was not a tax law, it should be struck down from the statutes forthwith, he argued.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, however, asked was it a rightful exercise to allow personal benefit, especially when Mr Tareen — as a director of the JDW Sugar Mill — was privy to specialised information about the acquisition of USML.

“We are not looking into conviction, only questioning whether you acted fairly or not,” Justice Bandial observed.

The counsel, however, argued that sections 15-A and B did not even remotely relate to the imposition or regulation of taxes.

When the court observed that the counsel was trying to wriggle his way out of the law, the counsel responded by citing Article 4 of the Constitution, which ensures the right of all individuals to be dealt in accordance with the law.

When asked if he had sought the annulment of the law by challenging it in a collateral proceeding, the counsel cited the 2009 Supreme Court verdict in the Sindh High Court Bar Association case, where the increase in the strength of Supreme Court judges from 16 to 29 was assailed because the enhancement was made through the Finance Bill 2008 instead of an act of parliament.

“If a law is bad, will the Supreme Court — the ultimate guardian of law and the Constitution — not take suo motu notice of the issue?” the counsel asked.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2017