ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday nullified the lifetime disqualification of the former foreign minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif.
Khawaja Asif is now eligible to contest in upcoming elections, which are scheduled to be held on July 25.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justices Faisal Arab and Sajjad Ali Shah had reserved its decision on the appeal filed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz stalwart challenging his April 27 disqualification by the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) member Usman Dar’s lawyer argued that Khawaja Asif continued employment in a foreign company despite being a federal minister. “The move is a conflict of interest,” he asserted.
“Can disqualification occur due to conflict of interests? There has been a lot of discussion on this topic in the world. Trump’s daughter performs duties in government affairs. His son-in-law runs his own business. Should a person be disqualified over conflict of interest or a public official be warned?” asked the judge.
Khawaja Asif’s lawyer adopted stance that the burden of evidence is on the shoulders of petitioner in article 184 (3).
“Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution is not applicable on every error or mistake. Disqualification can be handed where the facts are accepted. It is not necessary to reveal the source of assets according to law. Only the savings from the salary will be the asset,” he maintained.
“Khawaja Asif revealed Rs68 lac in 2012 and Rs7 lac in 2013 as foreign income. Did he tell anywhere that his salary of 2014 has been spent?
Senior lawyer Muneer A. Malik maintained that a difference exists between revealing assets in nomination papers and annual returns. Khawaja Asif would have told this if Election Commission had issued him a notice, he added.
“What do you mean by Election Commission? Shouldn’t Khawaja Asif had told about his salary in IHC?” inquired Justice Umar Ata Bandial.
“Shopping for the wedding of Khawaja Asif’s son was done from Dubai in 2014. He also spent money on his wife’s treatment. The company where he was employed has no link with Pakistan. He also received bonus besides salary. As per RUPA law, only assets and liabilities have to be revealed. He has not been accused of corruption and misuse of his authority. Article 62(1)(f) is only applicable if a flaw exist in the character,” told the lawyer.
Earlier, Advocate Sikander Bashir Mohmand, representing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader 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.
During the hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court had observed that it would unfair to destroy the career of a parliamentarian because he failed to quantify his assets, though he disclosed their source under the relevant law.
Justice Umer Ata Bandial, while heading the bench, had observed that disclosing foreign salary by the petitioner (Khawaja Asif) is sufficient, adding that it was not fair to destroy anyone’s career.
The court questioned as to whether Khawaja Asif had disclosed in his nomination papers, a salary of AED9000. Sikandar Bashir Mohmand, counsel for Usman Dar, responded that he did mention AED9000 but mentioned zero in next box of the nomination paper
Justice Umer Ata Bandial observed that it would be examined as to whether facts were mentioned in the nomination papers or not.
The court, however, observed that it would not go into the tax returns as it is the job of tax authorities to impose a penalty on it.
Justice Umer Ata Bandial remarked that the issue before the court pertained to disqualification under Article 62(1)(f).
On April 27, Asif was disqualified by the IHC under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution for failing to disclose his employment in a UAE company and the monthly salary he was receiving.
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The court announced its verdict on a petition stating that Asif did not mention his foreign employment in his nomination papers.
A three-member bench headed by Justice Athar Minallah had announced the verdict and ruled that Asif is not ‘honest’ and ‘truthful’ as per the Constitution.
The three bench members unanimously ruled that Asif was not qualified to contest the 2013 general election 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 People Act 1976.