Foreign Affairs Minister Khawaja Asif Disqualified As Parliamentarian For Non-Disclosure Of Gainful Employment With UAE Firm

— Opposition Leader in the Senate and veteran politician Sherry Rehman has demanded Asif resign as the country’s Foreign Minister, following the ruling.
— The country’s apex court recently ruled that parliamentarians disqualified over Article 62(1)(f) clause of the Constitution will be ineligible to contest elections or hold party office for life.

April 26, 2018 (DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — The Islamabad High Court on Thursday disqualified Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif as member parliament under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution for not declaring his gainful employment with a UAE firm in nomination papers he had filed during the 2013 elections.

Asif in his poll papers had declared that he held Iqama (Residency Visa) with a UAE company.

The court ruled that “Iqama is merely a residence visa issued by the immigration officials. In the instant case, the non-disclosure was that of the employment as an occupation and the salary per month received there under.”

The judgement also makes reference to the Panama Papers case, saying: “Supreme Court has not disqualified the former prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] merely for holding an ‘Iqama’ but rather his disqualification was due to non-disclosure of assets; holding an ‘Iqama’ cannot be made the basis for attracting Article 62(1)(f).”

The verdict said, “We declare that the Respondent [Khawaja Asif] was not qualified to contest the General Election of 2013 from NA-110 (constituency) as he did not fulfill the conditions described under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, read with section 99(1)(f) of the Representation of Peoples Act 1976.”

“Non-disclosure was that of the employment as an occupation and the salary per month received there under,” it adds.

Article 62(1)(f), 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 by a five-judge SC bench on July 28, 2017, in the Panama Papers case. Likewise, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified on Dec 15 last year by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.

The country’s apex court recently ruled that parliamentarians disqualified over the clause will be ineligible to contest elections or hold party office for life.

The Islamabad High Court’s three-member bench headed by Justice Athar Minallah directed its Registrar to send certified copy of its judgment to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for de-notifying the Respondent as Member of the country’s National Assembly (lower house of Parliament). “A copy is also directed to be sent to the Speaker of National Assembly of Pakistan for information,” it adds.

Complainant Usman Dar of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), who lost elections to Asif in 2013, had filed the lawsuit last year, seeking Asif’s disqualification for holding a UAE Iqama (Residency visa).

The foreign affairs minister, while talking to local media said he will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court. “I never concealed my Iqama,” he said.

It is not clear if the lawmaker from Sialkot would have to step down from his post as foreign minister following the de-notification from ECP.

Opposition Leader in the Senate and veteran politician Sherry Rehman has demanded Asif resign as the country’s Foreign Minister, following the ruling.

Speaking to the media in the federal capital, the Pakistan Peoples Party leader recalled that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani was handed a similar verdict while her party was in power (2008-2013), and the PPP had accepted the court decision.

“Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz is constantly putting our national image at stake,” said Rehman, adding that no one, be it the prime minister or a minister, had the right to hold foreign work permits.

‘Judgement written with a heavy heart’

It is obvious from the facts and circumstances in the instant case that 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 the other contesting candidates,” said the judgement.

“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.”

“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.”

While concluding the judgement, the bench observed that “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)”.

“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.”

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