IHC disqualifies Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif under Article 62(1)(f)

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif was disqualified by the Islamabad High Court on Thursday 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.

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 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 fulfil the conditions described under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, read with Section 99(1)(f) of the Representation of People Act 1976.

The Supreme Court disqualified then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif and PTI leader Jahangir Tareen in July and December last year, respectively, for violating Article 62 (1)(f).

Moreover, the apex court recently ruled that parliamentarians disqualified over the clause will be ineligible to contest elections or hold party office for life.

Judgement

According to judgement it was “obvious from the facts and circumstances in the instant case that the Respondent (Khawaja 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 other contesting candidates.”

“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. We have deeply pondered but could not persuade ourselves that this deliberate and willful non-disclosure was a bonafide or honest omission.”

“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. Nothing has been placed on record to show that a request had been made for closing the account before submitting the nomination paper.”

‘Handed down judgment with heavy heart’

Ending its judgment, the bench observed that politicians should resolve such issues in Parliament rather than dragging the courts in their conflicts.

“We have handed down this judgment 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,” the judges concluded.

The petition was filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Usman Dar who was defeated by Asif in the NA-110 constituency of Sialkot in the 2013 general elections by around 20,000 votes.

The court had issued a notice to all parties to appear before it today.

Dar and PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry were present in court when the verdict was read out whereas no one from Asif’s side was present.

Asif to challenge decision in Supreme Court

Speaking to Geo News’ anchor Hamid Mir, Asif said he would challenge the decision and claimed that all his assets had been declared ever since he joined politics.

“The Iqama was declared to the Election Commission of Pakistan,” asserted a confident Asif.

Hamid Mir said Asif appeared to be ‘very content’ and had told him that the temporary setback would not have any negative implications for his party.

Responding to a question about declaring his employment details as per the requirements of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, Asif said his case was based on a ‘technical matter’ and was hopeful that he would be given relief by the apex court.

Speaking on Geo News’ programme Capital Talk, Asif said that while the verdict was a setback, he was confident that in the upcoming elections, if his disqualification verdict stays, one of Nawaz’s soldiers would be victorious from Sialkot.

He further added that his foreign remittances and foreign work permit were accounted for when he was arrested during Pervez Musharraf’s tenure. The former minister said his employment contract was submitted to the relevant department.

“I pay tax even on my foreign income,” he said, adding that his bank account in Abu Dhabi and his wife’s in New York were both declared. Income tax department records will bear witness to my statements,” he said.

“I am facing this setback, aware full well that God has blessed me endlessly,” he said. “If not me, someone else will win from Sialkot.”

Responding to money laundering accusations against him, Asif said he had remitted money to his wife while she had traveled to New York to visit their daughter and son-in-law.

“Whatever the allegations may be, I sent the money to my wife and there is a record of that money a copy of which is attached to my nomination papers, income tax, and even wealth statement,” he said.

The PML-N leader further said that he would not hesitate to end his political career if anyone could challenge him on concealing anything.

“I won’t even contest the verdict [of the IHC] if someone is able to contest my claim that I have not concealed anything in my nomination papers,” the politician said, adding that politicians say many things about one another but not everything is correct or true.

Asif has been contesting and winning from NA-110, Sialkot since at least the last three elections and is a senior figure in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Apart from serving as the foreign minister, Asif has remained the minister of defence and water and power as well.

‘Asif used foreign account for money laundering’

Speaking to Geo News, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry said that Khawaja Asif had opened a foreign account and transferred funds to and through it. He alleged that the former federal minister used his foreign account as a tool for laundering money.

“Any person who wants to become a member of the Parliament must fully disclose their assets,” the PTI leader said, adding that while Asif had disclosed his Iqamahe had failed to inform the National Assembly about his foreign employment status and the salary drawn from it thereof.

“Give me one example in the world where the foreign minister was employed in another country,” said Chaudhry. “How will the citizens of a country react if one of their ministers is employed by a foreign country…it is a clear case of conflict of interest.”

The PTI leader further said that Asif was free to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the Islamabad High Court’s decision but the decision would reap him nothing but embarrassment.

Responding to a question about his own party’s acceptance of disqualification of its members for life, Chaudhry reminded that PTI had accepted the apex court’s verdict on Jahangir Tareen’s disqualification case.

“Voters have the right to know the employment details of the person they are voting for.”

The case

The verdict was reserved by the larger bench headed by Justice Minallah on April 10 after hearing arguments from both sides.

As per the petitioner, Asif was not entitled to hold office of MNA nor of federal minister under the Unlimited Term Employment Contract between him and International Mechanical and Electrical Co (IMECO), a company located in Abu Dhabi.

Asif was hired as a full-time employee of IMECO since at least July 2, 2011 and has held various positions, including those of the legal adviser and special adviser, the petition stated.

The contract signed between the foreign minister and the company claimed that Asif was to receive a monthly basic salary of AED35,000 along with a monthly allowance of AED15,000.

ECP de-notifies Asif as MNA

Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday evening de-notified Asif as a Member National Assembly (MNA) from NA-110 Sialkot-I with immediate effect.

A notification issued by the electoral body, a copy of which is available with Geo.tv, reads: “Consequent upon disqualification of Khawaja Muhammad Asif from being a Member of Majilis-e-Shoora (Parliament) by the Hon’ble Islamabad High Court, vide judgment dated 26th April, 2018 passed in Writ Petition No. 2907 of 2017 titled “Muhammad Usman Dar Vs. Khawaja Mohammad Asif in terms of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, read with section 99(1)(f) of the Act of 1976.”

“The Election Commission of Pakistan hereby de-notifies Khawaja Muhammad Asif as Member National Assembly of Pakistan from Constituency No. NA-110 Sialkot-I with immediate effect and in consequence thereof the notification No.F.2(40)/2013-Cord dated the 22nd May, 2013 to the extent of declaring him as returned candidate from National Assembly Constituency No.NA-110 Sialkot-I stands rescinded with effect from 26th April, 2018.”

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