ISLAMABAD -  Hearing a petition seeking disqualification of Imran Khan, the Supreme Court yesterday barred the people with political motives to use the case for advancement of their sectional interests.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard Pakistan Muslim Leader-Nawaz leader Hanief Abbasi’s petition against Imran and Jehangir Tareen.

Abbasi’s counsel Akram Sheikh said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan should be disqualified for ‘misdeclaration’ about foreign funding to PTI, his offshore company and the Bani Gala property.

While Sheikh was arguing about a London flat of Imran, Justice Faisal Arab asked him if it was mandatory for someone to declare his property abroad.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar asked him if it was mandatory for a non-resident Pakistani to declare his foreign property in the income tax returns.

The counsel failed to reply the queries and sought time to consult the experts.

When Abbasi’s counsel asserted that PTI flouted laws in collecting funds from the US, Justice Bandial noted that the matter of prohibited funds could only be taken up by the Election Tribunal.

At the start of the hearing, the chief justice stated that the persons who have no concern with the case should not talk to the media on the premises of Supreme Court.

“We want to uphold sanctity of this institution,” the chief justice said.

Justice Umar Atta Bandial said it is requested that the reporters, who cover the Supreme Court, can report the proceeding and the counsels, representing the parties, could explain about the case, but the persons who have political motives could not use the case as a springboard.

Later presenting the arguments, Akram Sheikh argued that PTI chairman had made misdeclaration in the certificates submitted before the Election Commission of Pakistan, wherein he declared that the PTI received no funds from any prohibited sources.

The counsel contended that Imran appointed PTI-USA Liability Limited Company (LLC) as his agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) for collection of foreign funds not only from individuals but also from the corporate entities.

He said LLC has seven directors: two Pakistanis and five US nationals. They had collected funds from US citizens and companies in violation of Article 6(3) of PPO therefore he is liable to be disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) and 63(1)(p) of Constitution for intentionally making a false declaration. He said that Imran Khan cannot claim to be ignorant of the activities of PTI-USA LLC.

Justice Bandial noted that the matter of prohibited funds could only be taken up by the Election Tribunal.

The PML-N leader’s lawyer said if it comes to the knowledge of the government that a party is getting funds from abroad then it could send reference to the ECP.

He argued that the government usually avoids such matters, adding the present government had been paralysed by dharna (sit-in) so it has reasons that it did not take action against the PTI. He said his client had filed the petition in the apex court in view of the Panama leaks.

Akram Sheikh informed that PTI collected $2.344 million and spent $2.017 million. He said that on PTI’s website, only the amount is given but no detail is provided. He said for the last three and half years, the ECP has been sitting on a petition about foreign funding to PTI.

Regarding the Niazi Services Limited (NSL), Akram Sheikh argued that the NSL was incorporated and registered on 10-05-83 under the law of Jersey Island. He said on one hand Imran Khan has admitted that the NSL was incorporated to purchase a flat in London while on the other he did not mention NSL in his Asset and Liabilities Statement, submitted before the ECP. He said that under section 42(a) of Representation of Peoples Act 1976 he had concealed the fact. Omission is a crime and false statement constitutes offence under the ROPA, he added.

Abbasi’s lawyer said Imran Khan gave contradictory statements regarding the ownership of a flat he had in London. At one point he called himself the absolute owner of the flat but at another he called himself beneficial owner of the flat.

The counsel said that in year 2000 Imran Khan, as an individual, availed tax amnesty scheme regarding the flat. He questioned how PTI chief could avail the amnesty scheme as an individual if the offshore companies owned the flat. Why would he pay tax on a property which was owned by the three offshore companies, he further questioned.

Akram Sheikh contended if Imran Khan has claimed that he bought the flat to save tax then why did he later ‘voluntarily’ declared the same flat and paid tax on it.

Justice Faisal Arab questioned whether under the law it was mandatory for a person to declare about the property abroad.

Akram Sheikh failed to reply the question and sought time to consult the experts on tax matters.

Justice Saqib told him to also see Indian provisions in this regard, mentioned in Palki Wala judgment. The chief justice also asked the counsel that he has to tell whether it was mandatory for a Pakistani, who is non-resident, to declare his property in foreign country in the Income Tax Returns.

PML-N leader’s counsel said that Imran Khan made five divergent declarations about Bani Gala. PTI chief in his ‘Statements of Assets and Liabilities’ from 2014 to 2015 filed before the ECP stated it was gifted by his wife. However, Jemima Khan in a power of attorney dated 12-04-2005 stated that Imran purchased the property in her name and it was a ‘benami transaction.’

Akram Sheikh said Imran Khan in his reply before the top court claimed he himself purchased the property by obtaining a loan from his ex-wife and has repaid the same in UK after sale of his London flat.

He said in the National Assembly on 18-05-2016 Imran Khan took position that he brought back the proceeds from the sale of London flat to Pakistan.

He further argued that Jemima Goldsmith in December 2011 maintained that she had neither gifted Imran Khan any property nor given him any money. The case was adjourned until Monday.

 

TERENCE J SIGAMONY