Imran survives, Tareen ‘slayed’

ISLAMABAD/Lahore  – In a politically significant case, the Supreme Court on Friday cleared Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan but disqualified its secretary general Jehangir Tareen for not declaring an offshore company in his nomination papers.

The clean chit to Imran, who was accused of financial dishonesty and assets hiding, comes ahead of the general elections due next year, only months after the apex court disqualified his key political rival and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for not declaring his assets.

Ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hanif Abbasi had filed separate constitutional petitions against Imran and Tareen, accusing them of not disclosing their assets, owning offshore companies and running a foreign-funded party.

A three-member bench conducted more than 50 hearings of both the petitions for almost a year and reserved the judgment on November 14. The court decided the matter of PTI leaders’ assets but referred the party funding issue to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

“No omission or dishonesty can be attributed to him [Imran]. This petition has no merits and is dismissed accordingly,” bench head Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said, reading from the judgement to a packed courtroom.

The chief justice said the court had found that Khan was not liable to declare offshore company Niazi Services Ltd in his 2013 nomination papers as he was not a shareholder or director of the company.

The detailed judgment noted that the money trail provided by Imran Khan sufficiently covered the Bani Gala property’s purchase price, the funds provided by his ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith and the proceeds from the sale of his apartment in London.

Justice Faisal Arab, a member of the bench, wrote additional note on Imran Khan assets. The third judge on the bench was Justice Umar Ata Badial.

Shortly after the judgement Khan held a press conference in Karachi where he told reporters “Pakistan’s highest court has exonerated me”.

“The taxpayers and those who earn their money through fair means and pay taxes should not be compared with the robbers and thieves,” he added.

PML-N leaders appeared disappointed with the exoneration of Khan, accusing the top court of dealing the cases of Imran and Nawaz differently.

Speaking to the media outside the court, State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said the Supreme Court had made Tareen a ‘sacrificial lamb’ to protect Imran.

Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of the ousted premier, said in a tweet, the bias of those demanding accountability has been exposed. “It proves that Iqama was just a smokescreen, while the real reason was to target Nawaz,” she said in an Urdu tweet.

Dishonest Tareen

The bench found PTI Secretary General Jahangir Tareen to be dishonest under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and Section 99 of Representation of People Act (ROPA) on one count among the multiple charges brought against him.

Article 62(1)(f) — which sets the precondition for the head of government to be “Sadiq and Ameen” (truthful and honest) — had led to the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif in the July 28 judgment in Panama Papers case.

Tareen was declared “dishonest” for concealing his property in London. The bench observed that he deliberately lied to the court regarding his offshore company.

“The respondent [Tareen] is disqualified… for the non-declaration of his property/asset i.e. ‘Hyde House’ in his nomination papers, and in making untrue statement before this Court, that he has no beneficial interest in SVL [offshore company]; therefore, he should cease to hold the office as the member of the National Assembly with immediate effect,” read the judgment.

About insider trading, the verdict said that Tareen may have committed this offence but he could not be judged for having committed a crime because of the terms of his settlement with the Securities and Exchange Corporation of Pakistan (SECP).

The court also stated that the matter had been closed by the SECP after Tareen paid a fine, and so it could not be used as a ground to disqualify him.

On the matter of alleged misrepresentation and short payment of agricultural income tax by the PTI leader, the court said it would not issue a declaration on it because the matter was currently sub judice in multiple courts.

The court also said it was not convinced that Tareen had been involved in acquiring loans and having them written off for his benefit, which would have demonstrated dishonesty.

It noted that the loans acquired by FPML allegedly written off by Tareen were actually written off in 2010, before the accused was even a shareholder or director of the company. Therefore, he could not be held responsible for it.

Moments after the verdict, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said the party will file a review petition against Tareen’s disqualification. He said Tareen was cleared of two out the three allegations, and the property over which he has been disqualified belongs to his son.



Foreign Funding issue

The top court said the petitioner has no locus standi to pursue the foreign funding case against PTI as a party, and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to investigate it.

The head of the bench said, “It is the responsibility of the ECP to look at the foreign funding case in detail.”

The court ruled that the ECP should, for the sake of impartiality, look into the foreign funds of the party over the preceding five-year period only.

 Courtroom environment

The Courtroom No.1 was filled to the brim with the leaders, lawyers and activists of both PML-N and the PTI. There was huge noise in the courtroom as all anxiously waited for the judgment which was scheduled to be announced at 2pm but was delivered almost half hour later.

The CJP apologised the delay and explained that it was due to a typographical mistake on one page. “We had to go through the entire 250-page document [due to that one mistake],” he said.

The chief justice directed the PTI and PML-N lawyers and workers to hear the judgment with patience and show their reaction on it out of the courtroom.

Petitioner Abbasi and other PML-N leaders, including Talal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz and Marriyum Aurangzeb, were present in the court.

Fawad Chaudhry was among the key leaders on the PTI side. But, neither Tareen nor Imran were in attendance.

After the judgment was announced, the activists of both the parties chanted slogan against each other’s top leadership.

Heavy contingent of police was deputed at and around the court complex to deal with any untoward situation. At least 900 security men were stationed outside the court, and 300 more deployed inside.



Imran survives, Tareen ‘slayed’

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