ISLAMABAD: Ten days after withdrawing a disqualification reference from the Election Commission of Pakistan against former president Asif Ali Zardari, leaders of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf approached the Supreme Court seeking permanent disqualification of Pakistan Peoples Party leader from parliament under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution for not declaring a flat in the US and two bulletproof vehicles in his statement of assets.
The identical but separate petitions have been filed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Mohammad Usman Dar and another legislator Khurram Sher Zaman, who represents the PTI in the Sindh Assembly, through their counsel Sikander Bashir Mohmand.
The petition sought a declaration that Mr Zardari was allegedly neither righteous nor sagacious in terms of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and also Section 231 of the Election Act, 2017 and therefore not qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of the National Assembly.
Mr Dar had also challenged the candidature of former foreign minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Khawaja Mohammad Asif after the 2013 general elections.
Petition accuses former president of indulging in ‘intentional and wilful concealment’ of a flat and two armoured vehicles in his statement of assets
The petition also sought a declaration that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should hold that Mr Zardari was not qualified to be elected or chosen or to officiate as or exercise powers of the “party head” within the meaning of Article 63A of the Constitution including the offices of PPP-Parliamentarian president and PPP co-chairperson. The ECP, the secretary of the National Assembly and Mr Zardari are respondents in the petition.
The PTI leaders in their petition accused Mr Zardari of indulging in “intentional and wilful concealment”, suppression and non-disclosure in the June 6, 2018 nomination papers filed to contest general elections from NA-213 constituency, of an apartment with a current market value in excess of $729,240 (Rs102 million) on the Upper East Side of New York City in the Borough of Manhattan (the US).
This immoveable property, the petition alleged, was owned and held by Mr Zardari under his name since 2007 as substantiated and proved through a number of documents.
The petition cited General Power of Attorney executed allegedly by Mr Zardari pursuant to Article 5, Title 15 of the New York General Obligations law on June 7, 2007 through which Mr Zardari allegedly appointed Mehreen Shah as his attorney to act in his place in respect of all real estate transactions, chattel and goods transactions, bond, share and commodity transactions, banking transactions, insurance transactions and tax matters.
The execution of power of attorney by Mr Zardari, besides his own signatures appearing thereon, is further affirmed by a duly notarised “acknowledgment” of his execution, the petition alleged. Besides, there was also an affidavit signed by Ms Shah that the power of attorney was in full force, the petition argued, adding that it was countersigned by the Consulate General of Pakistan in New York and the documents comprising power of attorney and related documents were issued and certified by the department of finance, office of the City Registrar, Manhattan, New York.
Other documents include bargain and sale deed of June 20, 2007, real property transfer report of the State of New York, unit power of attorney, and property tax bill quarterly statements for April 2018, November 2018 and January 2019. The documents also contain a newspaper clipping highlighting payment of taxes for the New York apartment.
The petitioners alleged that the property tax documents proved that Mr Zardari had been the owner of the apartment not just in June 2017 but also on the date of filing of the petition. He allegedly also suppressed an asset called parking space describes as Unit 30A, Block 1483, Lot 1058 located at 524 East 72nd Street in the Borough of Manhattan, they said.
Likewise, the petition said, Mr Zardari also concealed two armoured vehicles namely Mitsubishi Pajero-2010.
The only immoveable property outside Pakistan as mentioned in the nomination papers of the former president is an open plot in Dubai (the UAE), the petition alleged, adding that this was an intentional and dishonest violation of legal obligation under the Election Act.
On account of untruthful declarations, untruthful solemn affirmations and false statement of assets, the PPP leader was not qualified to be and was in fact liable to be disqualified from being member of the parliament under Articles 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and Section 231 of the Election Act, the petition said.
The petitioners alleged that each of the violations and untruthful statements and concealment respectively, of the New York apartment, New York Parking Space and the two armoured vehicles of Mr Zardari constituted a separate and compelling ground for his disqualification from parliament.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Usman Dar was elected from the NA-213 constituency. The error is regretted.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2019