ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on a petition of PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, seeking disqualification of PTI chief Imran Khan and General Secretary Jehangir Tareen for having offshore companies and not disclosing assets in their nomination papers.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab, reserved the judgment after hearing the case for almost one year. The chief justice said, “We have closed the case, but if the parties think something is to be filed in writing, they can do it later on.”

“Don’t expect that verdict will be given tomorrow as the legal matters and verdict take time ,” the Chief Justice remarked. “We are in search of truth,” he added.

Naeem Bukhari, representing Khan , contended that his client could not be disqualified just on the plea that he has not declared the assets of his ex-wife, Jemima Khan , in his nomination papers of 2002. He said if something was wrong, the returning officers should have rejected his nomination papers in 2002.

“This could be culpable negligence or culpable omission, but not falsehood. If non-declaration of wife’s assets amounts to dishonesty, then how shall I contest my case?” he questioned.

Justice Bandial said in the Shamona Bibi case, a parliamentarian did not declare his wife’s assets in the nomination papers and he was disqualified, but not under Article 62(1) (f). The judge noted that the record of Niazi Services Limited was provided to the court in a piecemeal manner and the Euro account was also not shown when Khan was an MNA. He asked what the nature of this account was when it was opened.

Bukhari said there was a vast difference between the cases of his client and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. “There is no dishonesty in Imran’s case. The only fault of Imran was that he did not maintain accounts properly,” he said, adding the court has to see where dishonesty ends and honesty begins.

Advocate Akram Sheikh, representing Abbasi, argued the PTI chief changed his stance for 18 times. Imran Khan is trying to hide behind technicalities of his shifting stances, he added.

He contended the shift in the stance has been held to be a ground for disqualification by the minority opinions of two judges, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed, in the Panama Papers case.

“Whether it is intentional or unintentional, the mental condition has become irrelevant after the Panama leaks judgment,” he said and added the court has to see non-declaration of assets in the nomination papers. Sheikh cited judgments in Allah Dino Bahio and Najeeb-ud-Din Awaisi cases wherein the court had declared that if a person commits mis-declaration in his previous nomination papers, it could be a consequence for disqualification in the next elections. He said the omission was treated dishonesty not only in the Panama Papers judgment but also in many other judgments of the apex court.

Sheikh said: “If this is the standard of honesty, integrity and impeccability of conduct of a public representative, the mandate of the Constitution embodied in articles 62 & 63 is thrown to the winds without any redemption/hope.”

He said Khan formed an offshore company, Niazi Service Limited, to conceal income and evade taxes behind an artificial veil of incorporation. “The NSL was created to benefit Khan and the company operated on the command of the PTI chief,” he said.

The PML-N leader’s counsel said according to Khan’s first concise statement (CMA 7925/2016), the NSL was formed to purchase a flat. But it remained operative till 2015 when it was liquidated after the sale of the flat in 2004.

He said that despite the court directions, Khan has not submitted a statement of all accounts owned and operated by the NSL in dollars, Euros, and pounds. He said: “In view of Imran’s past conduct and also before this court, he is an absolute personification of neither Ameen nor Sadiq. Khan is guilty of dishonesty, non-sagacity, non-righteous and non-Ameen for non-declarations, false declarations and contradictions.”

Sheikh prayed to the bench to remove Khan from the office meant for those who have to exercise the state power as a sacred trust where sovereignty belongs to Almighty Allah. “Let the hypocrisy of Imran Khan be put behind unbreakable bars of impartial, upright and transparent judicial process and let this court speak its heart and say no to hypocrisy in representing the voice of the people in the legislature.”

Justice Bandial said, “There are connected and coherent documents before the court. Moreover, they have Khan’s affidavit.”

Tareen’s counsel, Sikandar Bashir, argued his client’s offshore company – Shiny View Limited (SVL) – was incorporated under British Virgin Island law and the HSBC Bank was its trustee.

He said Tareen was neither legal nor beneficial owner of the company, but it was with a trust (EFG). Justice Faisal remarked everything was happening on Tareen’s instructions. He said Tareen established the source, but did not disclose the assets in the nomination papers.

Sikandar said, “Imran Khan admitted that he held Drag Cot property (UK flat), but Tareen’s London flat is managed by the SVL”.

The court observed Tareen and his wife, who are the lifetime beneficiaries of the property, have neither mentioned it in their tax nor in nomination papers, but his children who are only beneficiaries have mentioned the property in their tax returns.

Justice Bandial said the company’s accounts were with Tareen , but the statements have not been supplied to the court. “It is also not shown how the certificates were encashed.”

The chief justice asked Akram Sheikh whether the PTI chief’s pleading is not up to the standard. He further asked whether the court could not see anything beyond the pleadings. Abbasi’s counsel replied in the negative.

The chief justice expressed concern over the pleadings of Khan and Tareen , saying “After the retirement, I must ask one question about this from Naeem Bokhari and Sikandar Bashir.”

 

 

Verdict in Khan , Tareen disqualification case

to take time : CJP