–Most lawyers believe the judgment resembles SC’s July 28 verdict
The legal fraternity with near unanimity is of the opinion that the disqualification of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is a replay of July 28 judgment handed down by the Supreme Court (SC) to former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Nawaz Sharif in which he was disqualified and barred from participating in politics.
Pakistan Today reached out to prominent lawyers and jurists to know their take on Asif’s disqualification, options available to him and what this verdict bodes for the future of Pakistani politics and politicians.
SC Advocate and Pakistan Bar Council Member Azam Nazeer Tarar said that in such cases when next general elections are just around the corner and there is not enough time for a by-election, the court ordinarily practices restraint.
“When a person is at the end of his or her career or tenure, a writ of quo warranto is entered. It would have been better if the court had shown restraint. Secondly, Asif and for that matter, anybody, should be given a fair chance to avail the remedy of appeal before the SC. Every case has its own peculiar merits and has to be decided accordingly,” Tarar said.
Tarar aired reservations about the trend of denotifying the legislator as soon as the verdict is announced and said that it must have waited till an appeal is finalised.
ABS and Co Senior Partner and SC Advocate Majid Bashir mirrored the views of his colleagues. “Asif has been disqualified and will resign from his portfolio, immediately. He has a right of appeal but since Nawaz has been disqualified on same grounds, his appeal in SC does not look promising,” he said.
“Many politicians have Iqamas in order to smooth their business transactions in Dubai, Gulf and beyond. They get Iqama and get employment in a company, their travels are facilitated and tax evasion becomes easy,” he added.
He further said that there is a lacuna because the declaration of assets form by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) asks each and every detail of property and assets, while the wealth tax form prior to Nawaz’s case did not demand details of property owned abroad.
“Law of the land is at odds and self-contradictory. We need to harmonise them so that no lacunas are left,” he said.
SC Advocate Faisal Chaudhary said, “The law has spoken and the judgment is in strict accordance with the law of the land and the constitution. The judgment has certain similarities with the July 28 verdict and carries the same tone and tenor.”
Faisal was of the view that the across the board accountability and handing down of verdicts that affect members from both treasury and opposition benches ensures that the judges are being impartial and are deciding cases on merit and without any pressure.
SC Advocate and former Lahore High Court (LHC) judge Justice (r) Naseem Sikander said, “They have followed the same template, quoted the same precedents and boxed Asif in the same manner like Nawaz. The difference, however, is of the forum. In Nawaz’s case, it was SC. In Asif’s case, it is the Islamabad High Court (IHC).”
Sikander was of the view that the unity present among judiciary and army is utterly absent in politicians. “If there is this impression that the judiciary is slowly and steadily encroaching upon the realm of executive then it speaks volumes about the vulnerable and weak political class,” he said.
Former Islamabad High Court Bar Association president and SC Advocate Arif Chaudhary was of the opinion that the decision has clear similarities with the one handed down to Nawaz. “It is a very strange and shameful act that Asif kept his Iqama and was being paid even when he was a minister,” he said.
He added that the court has regretted that it had to take such a decision. “Courts have to decide the cases in strict accordance with the constitution and the law of the land. Anyone, who does not qualify on the 62(1)(f) will be disqualified for life and no exceptions are allowed,” he said.
IHCon Thursday disqualified PML-N leader and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif under article 62 (1)(f) of the constitution for not disclosing his Iqama.
A three-member larger bench, headed by Justice Athar Minallah and comprising of Justice Mohsin Akhter Kiyani and Justice Aamer Farooq, announced the verdict on a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) leader Usman Dar.