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Court declined PML-N request of sending Imran Khan funding case to ECP

04 August, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: During the hearing of foreign funding case against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PNL-N) senior lawyer Akram Sheikh requested the Supreme Court to send the matter unconditionally to the Election Commission of Pakistan for examination.

Arguing before a three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab, which is seized with a petition filed by PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi seeking disqualification of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Secretary General Jahangir Tareen for non-disclosure of assets, ownership of offshore companies, and PTI being a foreign-aided party, Akram Sheikh requested the court to also set a timeframe for the ECP to decide the matter of receiving foreign funding from prohibited sources.

However, the court declined to entertain the request. Justice Bandial made it clear that the receipt of prohibited funds has to be established first.

Akram Sheikh said although the apex court hears and decides hundreds of cases daily, however it was a very important case involving a political party. He pleaded the court to determine a policy with regard to receiving of foreign funding by the political parties.

He said in Benazir Bhutto case, an 11-judge bench of the apex court had ruled that every political party was bound to get its accounts audited by a well-reputed chartered accountancy firm.

To a court query, he said the membership fee of PTI is Rs 19,000 and in 2013, the party received over Rs 405 million. He said it seemed that in the end the court will give a certificate to the PTI that it did not receive even a penny from prohibited sources. To a query that whether PML-N compiles the statement of its accounts, Sheikh said he could inform the court only after asking his client.

The counsel for ECP stated that the apex court could directly hand down a decision if it is proved that a political party was working against the ideology of Islam or Pakistan.

To a court query, Akram Sheikh submitted that Imran Khan has admitted ownership of London flat. He said, in fact, Imran Khan was the beneficial owner of Niazi Services Limited (NSL) and not the London flat.

The chief justice then noted that Imran Khan was not the shareholder of NSL. He said Imran Khan was neither director of NSL nor affiliated with its administrative affairs.

He said the court wants to know who was the real owner of NSL. Justice Bandial noted that the ownership is determined on the basis of assets. The chief justice said that black law dictionary defines the ownership.

Sheikh said that London flat of Imran Khan was sold in 2003 at 6, 90, 000 pounds and the whole amount was transferred in the account of NSL. He said Imram Khan did not declare an amount of 1, 27, 000 pounds in his affidavit. He said Imran Khan also received 208, 000 pounds as rent of London flat.

He said that NSL was made abroad, however it got benefit from an amnesty scheme which was meant only for Pakistan. He said Imran Khan was no more 'sadiq and ameen' after concealing assets. To a court query, Sheikh said NSL existed from 1983 to 2015, whereas the details of accounts of the company were given for only two years.

"If failure to declare a loan as an asset could lead to the application of Article 62 of the constitution", Justice Faisal Arab asked when Sheikh said that Imran Khan should be disqualified for not declaring a loan that he received from his former wife, Jemima, as an asset.

In response to judge's remark, Sheikh said 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.

Justice Bandial, however, maintained that since the Panama Papers case was related to the Sharif family's assets, the comparison was invalid. He also suggested Sheikh to read the verdict before commenting on it.

Sheikh said it is extremely necessary to probe the source of PTI's funds. When Sheikh started arguments over the money trail of Imran's properties, the chief justice said that Imran Khan declared his Bani Gala property in his nomination papers for 2002 elections. It would have to be proved from the bank records that the money was brought from abroad, the chief justice said, adding that it is also necessary to prove the loan.

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