KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday dismissed a set of petitions seeking disqualification of four Pakistan Peoples Party leaders, including Faryal Talpur and two provincial ministers, for possessing an Iqama (work permit) of other countries.
A two-judge bench comprising Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Agha Faisal ruled that the petitioners had been unable to demonstrate that an Iqama was an asset.
It added that no requirement for disclosure of an Iqama in the nomination form or statement of assets accompanying the same was placed before the bench.
Political rivals of Ms Talpur, a sister of former president Asif Ali Zardari, provincial ministers Nasir Hussain Shah and Sohail Anwar Siyal and former minister Manzoor Wassan petitioned the SHC in 2018 stating that the respondents were holding Iqamas (work permits) of other countries and they did not disclose them in their nomination papers for contesting the 2013 general elections.
They argued that it is tantamount to violation of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution read with Sections 99(I)(f) of the Representation of People Act 1976 and pleaded for their disqualification.
Faryal Talpur, Nasir Shah, Sohail Siyal and Manzoor Wassan did not disclose their Iqamas in their election papers
The bench in its judgement observed that in the Khawaja Asif case, the Supreme Court had held that a mere omission to list an asset cannot be labelled as dishonesty unless some wrongdoing was associated with its acquisition or retention, as attribution of dishonesty to every non-disclosure was never the intention of the parliament.
In the petitions under consideration, the verdict said, the respective counsel have been unable to demonstrate the admitted or irrefutable existence of any undisclosed assets, therefore, had no occasion to associate the same with any malfeasance.
In former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s case, it was maintained that the court was empowered to issue a writ of quo warranto in respect of a member of a house in the presence of admitted facts and or irrefutable direct evidence available on the record to justify disqualification. “Admittedly there is a prima facie absence of any admitted facts and irrefutable direct evidence with respect to the allegations against the contesting respondents, in the petitions under scrutiny,” it added.
The bench further observed that in the present facts and circumstances, there was no demonstrable existence of any asset, either crystallised or receivable, and on the contrary this court was called upon to enter into an exercise for such a determination. Notwithstanding the settled principles of law that facts about disqualification of a member of a house must be based on affirmative evidence and not upon presumptions, inferences and surmises that settlement of factual/contractual issues were discouraged in the exercise of constitutional jurisdiction as the Supreme Court has specifically observed in the Khawaja Asif case that the court in proceedings in the nature of quo warranto may not take such a task upon itself, it added.
“It is our deliberated view that the petitioners have been unable to demonstrate that an iqama is an asset. No requirement for disclosure of an iqama in the nomination form or statement of assets accompanying the same was placed before us. There is no admission or irrefutable direct evidence placed on file to demonstrate the existence of any undisclosed assets, crystallised or receivable, non-disclosure whereof would render a member unqualified to hold public office per Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, hence, these petitions are hereby determined to be devoid of merit,” it concluded.
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2020