- IHC special bench finds Khawaja Asif ‘dishonest’ for not disclosing UAE Iqama, salary
- Asif to move Supreme Court against verdict, says never concealed Iqama
- Usman Dar calls Asif ‘underworld don’, says verdict ‘victory’ for people, PTI
ISLAMABAD: “With a heavy heart”, a three-judge special bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday disqualified Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif 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.
The bench headed by Justice Athar Minallah and comprising Justice Mohsin Akhter Kiyani and Justice Aamer Farooq was announcing its verdict on a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Usman Dar.
Commenting on the argument put forward by Khawaja Asif’s legal team that “since copies of the passport attached with the nomination paper also contained a copy of the Iqama, therefore there was no misrepresentation or concealment”, the judgement says: “Iqama is merely a residence visa issued by the immigration officials. In the instant case, the non-disclosure was that of the employment as an occupation and the salary per month received there under.”
The judgement also makes a reference to the Panama Papers case, saying: “Supreme Court has not disqualified the former prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] merely for holding an ‘Iqama’ but rather his disqualification was due to non-disclosure of assets; holding an ‘Iqama’ cannot be made the basis for attracting Article 62(1)(f).”
“We declare that the Respondent [Khawaja Asif] was not qualified to contest the General Election of 2013 from NA-110 as he did not fulfill the conditions described under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, read with section 99(1)(f) of the Representation of Peoples Act 1976,” reads the judgement. “The Registrar of this Court is directed to send certified copy of this judgement to the Election Commission for de-notifying the Respondent as Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan. A copy is also directed to be sent to the Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan for information,” it adds.
The foreign minister has decided to challenge the high court’s verdict in the Supreme Court.
While talking to a private news channel, Khawaja Asif said that he will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.
“I never concealed my Iqama,” he said.
The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday evening de-notified Asif as a Member National Assembly (MNA) from NA-110 Sialkot-I with immediate effect. It is not clear, however, if Asif would have to step down from his post as foreign minister following the denotification from ECP.
Article 62(1)(f), which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be Sadiq and Ameen (honest and righteous), is the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by a five-judge SC bench on July 28, 2017, in the Panama Papers case. Likewise, former Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen was disqualified on Dec 15 last year by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.
‘VERDICT WRITTEN WITH A HEAVY HEART’:
‘The judgement was announced by a three-member bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani.
It observed that it would have been appropriate if the political party to which the petitioner belongs, the PTI, had raised the issue at hand in the parliament before invoking the jurisdiction of the court.
“It is obvious from the facts and circumstances in the instant case that Asif had deliberately and willfully not disclosed his status as an employee of the Company , nor receiving of the salary per month pursuant thereto, despite having been expressly put to challenge by the other contesting candidates,” said the judgement.
“The validity of ‘Iqama’, working as an employee of the Company and receiving a substantial salary without being physically present, which is AED 50,000/- per month under the Third Contract executed in July 2017, were some benefits gained from non disclosure. Disclosure would have led to giving up the ‘Iqama’ and the hefty salary paid by the Company for some advice sought telephonically by a foreign based employer from the prospective Defense and then Foreign Minister of Pakistan.”
“The lack of honesty was established by not disclosing the employment as an occupation and the salary received per month despite the vague and obscure amount declared as foreign remittances having been specifically challenged. This would also apply to the non disclosure of the account maintained with the Bank of Abu Dhabi.”
While concluding the judgement, the bench observed that “it is not a pleasant duty for any court to be called upon to examine and exercise powers of judicial review which may lead to an elected representative being disqualified as Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)”. “We have handed down this judgement with a heavy heart not only because a seasoned and accomplished political figure stands disqualified but more so because the dreams and aspirations of 342,125 registered voters have suffered a setback.”
Petitioner Usman Dar of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who lost elections to Khawaja Asif in 2013, had filed the petition last year, seeking the former foreign minister’s disqualification for holding a UAE Iqama (visa).
Calling Asif an underworld don, he give the credit of this “success” to PTI chief Imran Khan. He also thanked Jahangir Tareen — PTI leader who was also disqualified under the same Article (62)(f) last year.
“After 32 years, people of Sialkot have been freed from a Godfather,” he said. “I want to thank all those who supported me, especially on social media. Your every comment helped me stay resolute”.
Dar said that Khawaja Asif had disrespected his leader (Imran Khan) and gave insulting remarks about him. “Today I’ve taken out the Sariya (iron bar) from Asif’s neck and will present it to my leader in Banigala,” the PTI leader said, making a below the belt remark for the foreign minister.
Giving suggestion to Asif for his future, Dar said: “I still remember how Kh Asif ridiculed SKMH and its beneficiaries. I would advise him that now that he is free from Assembly duties, he should go serve those cancer patients & earn their dua”.
“I am a warrior of Khan’s army. I told you that you cannot scare me, buy me, or force me to bow before you.” Dar said.
Supporters of the PTI started chanting slogans of “Go Nawaz Go” outside the court after the verdict was announced in a packed courtroom.
The petition filed by Usman Dar had said that Asif was entitled to draw a salary which was his receivable asset; however, since he did not declare it in the nomination paper while contesting the 2013 general elections from NA-110, he is not eligible to hold the National Assembly seat.
The petition pointed out that Asif’s Iqama was renewed on June 29, 2017 and was valid till June 28, 2019, which established that in spite of being a federal minister, Asif “intends to surreptitiously and secretly continue with his full-time employment with IMECL in violation of his oath of office under the Constitution”.
Khawaja Asif is in China these days on an official visit.