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Verdict reserved on disqualification pleas against Imran, Tareen

Updated November 15, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its judgement on a set of petitions seeking disqualification of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen.

But before closing the proceedings, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who headed the three-judge SC bench, told all parties not to expect an early decision. He asked the petitioner as well as respondents to submit additional written material if they wanted to.

The petitions filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hanif Abbasi on Nov 2 last year sought the two PTI leaders’ disqualification over non-disclosure of assets and existence of their offshore companies, as well as receiving foreign funds for their party.

Senior counsel Naeem Bokhari, who represented Mr Khan, argued that the case should not be treated on a par with the Panama Papers case in which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified because, according to him, there was a world of difference between the two.

Chief justice tells parties not to expect an early decision

In this case, he said, no money was sent out of the country, adding that it could be the case of a young man who could not manage his accounts properly.

Mr Bokhari said that his client did not mention his Draycott flats of London in his statement of assets and later benefited from the tax amnesty scheme of 2000, asking if utilising the amnesty scheme be considered dishonesty. But he admitted that the line between honesty and dishonesty had to be drawn by the apex court.

During the proceedings, Justice Umar Ata Bandial highlighted that the petitioner had objected that information regarding Niazi Services Limited’s accounts had been brought in piecemeal and that of euro accounts had not been disclosed earlier.

The judge also quoted the Shamoona case in which the apex court had held that not giving information about spouses in nomination papers could entail disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

Mr Bokhari, however, argued that not declaring assets of his wife in nomination papers should be considered an omission the only consequence of which should have been its rejection by the returning officer. And had Mr Khan been elected in the elections as member of parliament, an election petition could have been filed.

Advocate Mohammad Akram Sheikh, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, argued that Mr Khan had changed his stance 18 times before the court, and then went on to cite the Panama Papers case judgement in which Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had mentioned the word shifting stances for Nawaz Sharif twice and eventually disqualified him.

Like only one straight line between two points in mathematics, there could only be one true statement, the counsel emphasised. He said the Panama Papers case judgement was not the only example in which the apex court had handed down disqualification under Article 62(1)(f), but there were many other verdicts.

He accused Mr Khan of demonstrating casual attitude while making a solemn statement under the oath and his sheer lack of respect for sacred institutions, adding that no amendment could be brought later after a sworn written affidavit.

“If this is the standard of honesty, integrity and impeccability of conduct of a public representative then the mandate of the Constitution embodied in Articles 62 and 63 is thrown to the winds without any redemption,” the counsel said.

Later, the court asked Sikandar Bashir Mohmand, the counsel for Mr Tareen, to explain the nature of the Shiny View Limited (SVL) — an offshore company created by his client.

Mr Mohmand conceded that the 12-acre Hyde House outside London was purchased on May 10, 2011 by SVL on the instructions of a settler, who was Mr Tareen, though the legal proprietor of the property would still be SVL.

Justice Faisal Arab, a member of the bench, asked whether or not everything was happening on the instructions of the settler because it was his money and that all cheques were signed by him.

By all intents and purposes, the court observed, it seemed as if Mr Tareen was the beneficial owner of SVL.

Justice Arab wondered whether not disclosing an offshore company could be construed as omission, adding that an individual became discretionary beneficiary only when the beneficiary was not identified by the settler.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2017