- SC bench converts former FM’s petition challenging his life time disqualification by IHC into appeal
- Asif’s counsel says ‘sword of disqualification should not be looming over parliamentarians’ heads’
- Petitioner Usman Dar says will compete with Asif in ‘people’s court’
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday overturned the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) decision to disqualify former foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif for life, making the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader eligible to contest the 2018 general elections.
In April, an IHC bench, headed by Justice Athar Minallah and comprising Justice Mohsin Akhter Kiyani and Justice Aamer Farooq, had disqualified Khawaja Asif “with a heavy heart” as a member of parliament under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution for not disclosing his employment in a UAE company as an occupation as well as the monthly salary he was receiving.
Following the verdict, the PML-N leader had challenged the verdict in the apex court on May 2, admitting that he was unable to declare his foreign bank account in the nomination papers “unintentionally”. Asif had also accused the petitioner, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s Usman Dar, of hiding facts from the court.
Dar had moved the IHC seeking disqualification of Asif over his failure to declare his foreign employment in the nomination papers for 2013 general elections.
Earlier on Friday, a three-member bench of the SC, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and consisting of Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, had reserved the decision.
“Khawaja Asif can contest the upcoming election,” Justice Bandial said while announcing the verdict later in the day.
“Reasons to be recorded later. We allow this petition and convert it into an appeal,” Justice Bandial added. He further asked if a conflict of interest could lead to disqualification as the topic has been discussed at great length the world over.
Asif’s senior counsel, Munir A Malik, had argued that his client had revealed all the details required in his nomination papers.
“The sword of disqualification should not be looming over parliamentarians’ heads in this way,” he asserted.
He said that if his client’s income was greater than his declared sources of income, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) could look into the matter.
“The investigation of greater income than resources falls within the ECP’s ambit,” he had said.
Khawaja Asif’s legal counsel had argued that he did not mention foreign accounts on nomination papers “unintentionally”.
He also said that he had declared his bank accounts details and iqama (work permit) before the writ was submitted by Usman Dar.
Advocate Sikander Bashir Mohmand, representing PTI’s Mohammad Usman Dar, remarked that a record of Asif’s stint in the federal cabinet has been submitted to the court.
“Asif’s oath should be reviewed,” the legal counsel said, adding that Asif had taken the oath to never think about his personal benefit.
“He was working as an employee in a foreign country while serving as a minister in Pakistan,” Advocate Mohmand added.
The Supreme Court has yet to issue a detailed order in the case.
‘THANKFUL TO JUDICIARY’:
Following the decision, Khawaja Asif said Allah had bestowed his mercy upon him.
اللہ نے مجھ عاجز اور گناہ گار پر رحم اور کرم کیا ھے ۔۔ رب العزت کا احسا ن اور مھر بانیوں کا شمار ھی نھیں ۔۔ میں عدلیہ کا شکریہ ادا کرتا ھوں ۔۔ الحمداللہ
— Khawaja M. Asif (@KhawajaMAsif) June 1, 2018
“I want to thank the judiciary,” Asif further tweeted.
‘WILL APPROACH PEOPLE’S COURT’:
Reacting to the verdict, Usman Dar congratulated Khawaja Asif for becoming eligible to contest the upcoming elections.
“We will compete in the court of people in Sialkot now. There will be a tough competition in Sialkot.”
While speaking to media outside the Supreme Court, he remarked that he has a message for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam.
“Maryam and Nawaz may keep saying whatever they want to the court but it is the court which has deemed their worker to be eligible,” he said.
‘VERDICT WON’T CHANGE NAWAZ’S FORTUNES’:
Meanwhile, legal expert Advocate Azam Nazeer Tarar said that the verdict in the case won’t change the fortunes of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif.
“Nawaz’s case is done, reviewed and decided, however, in Asif’s case, there are still some questions which are to be answered,” he said.
“In my opinion, courts must not get themselves embroiled in deciding the destinies of electoral candidates and leave this to the electorate and the masses,” he remarked.
Journalist Hasnaat Malik drew a comparison between Nawaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif, saying both cases were different in nature.
“Khawaja Asif’s case was not of non-disclosure,” he said.
Malik was of the view that the top court is roaming around factual controversy and questioning whether there was active concealment by Khawaja Asif and whether 62(1)(f) is applicable in his particular case or not.