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Imran Khan in-Jahangir Tareen out

16 December, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday partially rejected the petition of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi as it declared Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan ‘cleared’ but disqualified Secretary General Jahangir Khan Tareen.

A three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab announced the verdict reserved on November 14, 2017, in a packed courtroom.

The court had to announce the verdict at 2:00 pm. However it was announced at 3:22 pm. Before announcing the verdict, the chief justice apologised for the delay, explaining that due to a ‘mistake’ on one page, “we had to go through the entire 250-page document.”

The detailed verdict authored and read by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar held that Imran Khan was not liable to declare Niazi Services Ltd (NSL) in his 2013 nomination papers as he was not its shareholder. The verdict stated that Khan had submitted all the information sought by the court, however only a small amount from the money trail sent by Jemima Khan remained unaccounted for. With regard to Bani Gala property, the judgment states that Khan had purchased the land for his family.

The court ruled that Imran Khan was not disqualified as a parliamentarian as the petitioner was not directly affected in the foreign funding case. The verdict sates that Imran Khan was not bound to declare his offshore company as he had declared his London flat in an amnesty scheme and that his former spouse Jemima gave him (Imran) the funds for buying the Bani Gala property.

The verdict stresses the need for having honest leaders in the country. “The states which are not governed by honest and upright people are bound to suffer and lag behind the developed nations of the world”.

The court ruled that the ECP will impartially investigate the foreign funding claims against the PTI chief by scrutinising accounts of the last five years.

The verdict rejected the objection that the petition was filed by Abbasi in retaliation to the petition filed by Imran Khan against Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case. “We on the basis of the material on the record are not persuaded to hold that the petition is a counterblast to a similar kind of a petition filed by Imran Khan against Nawaz Sharif, or this is a proxy petition filed for the benefit of someone else, and it is tainted with mala fide and has been filed with ulterior motives,” the judgment noted.

With regard to Tareen, the court stated that he had made a ‘blatant misstatement’ before the highest judicial forum of the country by claiming that he had “no beneficial interest in the trust arrangement which holds the SVL and the Hyde House” while he was in fact a ‘discretionary lifetime beneficiary’ along with his spouse. “Thus, he is declared not to be an honest person in terms of the constitutional provisions and the provisions of ROPA”.

“In his concise statement Tareen in unequivocal, clear and unambiguous terms stated that he has no beneficial interest in the trust arrangement which holds the SVL and the Hyde House, however from the trust deed dated 5.5.2011, on which reliance has been placed by the respondent himself, he is the ‘discretionary lifetime beneficiary’ along with his spouse and, therefore, this is a blatant misstatement on the part of the respondent made before the highest judicial forum of the country which is not a trait of an honest person. Consequently, on both the counts mentioned above, the respondent is declared not to be an honest person in terms of the constitutional provisions and the provisions of ROPA, therefore, he ceases to be the member of the Parliament having incurred the disqualification,” the verdict held.

The verdict stated that Tareen had pleaded guilty to insider trading, adding that he used suspicious terms in his statements before the court. The judgment also stated that the court was not announcing its decision on Tareen’s agriculture land in the matter.

The verdict stated that Tareen had purchased shares in the name of his driver and cook Haji Khan and Allah Yar respectively, and thus, violated the provisions of Section 15-A of the Ordinance, 1969, the Ordinance, 1984 and other laws on the subject”.

The verdict states that a person’s honesty prior to his becoming a member of the national or a provincial assembly can be called in question only if he has accumulated wealth through fraud, embezzlement, bribery or tax evasion and has been so declared by a competent court of law.

And as far as his dishonesty with regard to the assets acquired after becoming a member of the National Assembly or a provincial assembly is concerned, the same can be scrutinized by the court in the proceedings in the nature of quo warranto which will determine whether a case for acquisition of assets beyond known sources of income is made out’.

With regard to the petitioner’s allegations that PTI was a foreign aided party, the verdict held that it was the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to look at the foreign funding case in detail. The court held that the ECP has a right to look into the foreign funds of any party over the span of last five years.

The petition was filed by PML-N MNA Hanif Abbasi in November 2016, accusing the PTI chairman and secretary general of not declaring their assets and offshore companies to the ECP and sought their disqualification based on alleged violations of the Income Tax Ordinance, 1979 and Representation of Peoples Act 1974, besides claiming that PTI was a foreign aided party.

According to estimates, the lawyers of the petitioner and the respondents had presented their arguments for about 102 hours in 52 hearings of the case.

Before announcement of the verdict, PTI members and supporters gathered outside the court to show solidarity with their party leaders. However neither Imran Khan nor Jahangir Tareen came to the court.

Petitioner Hanif Abbasi, State Minister for Information Maryam Aurangzeb and State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry and other members of PML-N were present in the courtroom.

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