ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled that Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif stands disqualified from Parliament for holding an Iqama (work permit) of the United Arab Emirates.
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.
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 media, 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.
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.
Asif has remained the minister of defence and water and power as well.
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.