Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif was today disqualified from holding public office for life by the high court here for concealing details of his UAE work permit while contesting polls in 2013, in another major blow to the ruling PML-N party ahead of the general elections. In an unanimous verdict, a three-member special bench of the Islamabad High Court ruled that Asif was not “truthful” and “honest” and disqualified him under Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution. “We declare that the respondent (Asif) was not qualified to contest the General Election of 2013 from NA-110 as he did not fulfill the conditions described under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution,” the bench ruled.
Article 62, which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be “sadiq and ameen” (honest and righteous), is the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified on July 28, 2017, in the Panama Papers case. The petition against 68-year-old Asif was filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Usman Dar, seeking his disqualification for holding an Iqama (work permit) of the UAE.
Dar who lost election against Asif in 2013 had challenged the qualification of Asif as the member of parliament for not declaring his job and salary in the UAE while contesting the polls. Asif will be unable to hold public or party office for life after the verdict. “It is not a pleasant duty for any court to be called upon to examine and exercise powers of judicial review which may lead to an elected representative being disqualified as Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament),” the bench said.
Asif is one of the top leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and his disqualification is considered as another huge blow to the party ahead of election scheduled to be held after June. “The Registrar of this Court is directed to send certified copy of this judgment to the Election Commission for de-notifying the Respondent as Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan. A copy is also directed to be sent to the Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan for information,” the court said.
Reacting to the verdict, Asif said he will challenge it in the Supreme Court. “I never concealed my iqama,” he said. The PTI leader had urged the court to disqualify Asif, stating that the Supreme Court has already disqualified Sharif last year for having an ‘Iqama’ of working in the company of his sons and not declaring his “receivable salary”.
The petitioner alleged that Asif had Unlimited Term Employment Contract with International Mechanical and Electrical Co. He was hired as a full-time employee in July, 2011 and held various positions. He claimed that Asif under the contract was to receive a monthly basic salary of AED 35,000 along with a monthly allowance of AED 15,000, which he did not declare. The petition also pointed out that the iqama of Asif was renewed on June 29, 2017 and was valid till June 28, 2019.
During the hearing, Asif had submitted a letter from the company that he was not full time employee and only worked as a consultant whose presence was not needed in the UAE, where the company is based. The bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, had reserved the verdict on April 10.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court last year also disqualified finance minister Ishaq Dar from office after an investigation into the wealth of Sharif. Dar has been out of the country since October last year on account of his medical treatment. He has since been declared a proclaimed offender in the corruption case filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau.