ISLAMABAD: No elements of fraud or malpractice have been seen in the money trail Imran Khan provided for the purchase of his property in Bani Gala, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar said on Tuesday.
Heading a three-judge bench hearing a petition against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief, the chief justice also observed that Khan’s arguments regarding how he acquired the land have been consistent.
The bench is hearing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hanif Abbasi’s petition seeking Khan’s disqualification over the manner in which he acquired the land on which he built his farmhouse. “We are [only]considering the honesty of [Imran Khan] in this case,” said the chief justice.
But all was not good for Khan in the 38th hearing of the case on Tuesday. The bench did observe that Khan has still not produced the complete details of the accounts of his offshore company — Niazi Service Limited (NSL). Likewise, the court asked Imran’s attorney Naeem Bukhari to submit details of the expenditure of around £100,000 which was still in the NSL account after payments were made to Khan’s then-wife, Jemima Khan, as the amount was not disclosed by Khan in his annual returns for 2003-04. According to Imran’s counsel, the remaining amount in NSL had been spent on litigation.
The bench also observed that allegations regarding concealment of assets in his 2002 nomination papers are in the past and closed, as they are only considering his 2013 nomination papers. It also observed that there is a total deficiency of roughly six per cent in the money trail given by Khan.
On the other hand, Akram Sheikh, counsel for Abbasi, urged the bench to apply the SC’s July 28 Panama Papers verdict in this case as that larger bench judgment is binding upon it.
The counsel said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified for failing to declare unclaimed wages earned as an executive of a Dubai-based company owned by his son in the assets statement he filed alongside his nomination papers for NA-120 in the 2013 general election. Sheikh read out the relevant portion of the July 28 verdict.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial, however, said that verdict was not related to the matter at hand as the Panama case was not about the relationship between father and son or husband and wife but about an employee and a company, a salary from which was not mentioned in Sharif’s nomination papers.
The judge also wondered why the lawyer did not read the judgment authored by the senior-most judge on that bench, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. Sheikh replied by saying that Justice Khosa’s verdict was just an opinion which was not endorsed by the majority of judges on that bench.
Justice Bandial, while referring to the verdict in the Rae Hassan Nawaz disqualification case, observed that there is also a need for examining the intentions of public office holders regarding alleged omissions in statements of assets before the Election Commission of Pakistan, adding that there was deliberate concealment of assets in the Rae Hassan Nawaz case.
But Sheikh, referring again to the Panama Papers judgment, contended that the SC could disqualify a parliamentarian on the basis of mere omission without examining his intention, adding that there was no distinguishing of facts in the Sharif case and the Khan case and the same court could not give two different judgments based on similar facts.
He also claimed that Khan got a loan from his wife which was not disclosed before the ECP after he was elected to the National Assembly for the first time in 2002.
Sheikh again questioned why the NSL was kept active till 2015, adding he does not have the means to dig out the sources of Khan’s income abroad.
He concluded his arguments by saying that Khan should be disqualified for his failure to disclose the NSL in the nomination papers he submitted in 2002, 2008, and 2013 elections.
Later, Bukhari submitted details of a bank transaction provided by Jemima Khan regarding the £562,000 given by Imran Khan after the sale of the London flat. After being told that details had been provided via an email attachment, the bench requested that copies of the relevant email record also be provided to it.
After the arguments concluded, the bench clarified that they are not reserving judgment in the case against Khan, and both sides may submit further documents.
In the related case against PTI Secretary General Jehangir Tareen, counsel for Tareen will resume arguments today (Wednesday).