By Muhammad Luqman
The Islamabad High Court declared Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif disqualified for holding any public office , dealing another blow to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz .
This is second high profile of the ruling party disqualified by the court in less than one year after former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was barred by the Supreme Court from holding public office on July 28, 2017.
Khawaja Asif, who is a central leader of PML-N and had contested elections from north eastern city of Sialkot in 2013, was declared ineligible unanimously for holding office, on account of Article 62 (1)(f) of the constitution in a case related to his foreign work permit (iqama).
‘Khawaja Asif deliberately concealed his assets’ remarked the court in a short judgment announced by Justice Athar Minallah who headed a three-member larger bench.
The Islamabad High Court also directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to de-notify the lawmaker and according to the judgment, Asif will be unable to hold public or party office.
While concluding the short 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.” remarked the court.
Soon after the judgment, Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took to Twitter and decried the directives of the court.
On the other hand, the petitioner Usman Dar of opposition party , Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf thanked the party loyalists for standing by him throughout the legal battle.
The verdict was reserved on April 10 by a three-member larger bench, headed by Justice Athar Minallah and comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, after listening to the arguments on a petition filed by PTI member Usmar Dar against the PML-N leader.
The petitioner, Usman Dar, who lost to Asif during 2013 general elections in the NA-110 constituency from PTI’s platform, had pleaded that Asif hid the fact of holding an Iqama, or a foreign work permit, he signed with International Mechanical and Electrical Co (IMECO), a company located in Abu Dhabi, in his nomination papers.
Dar had nominated Asif, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the National Assembly secretary as respondents and sought relief under Article 199(1)9b)(ii) read with Article 63(1)(f).
In his reply earlier submitted before the previous larger bench, Asif said the petitioner had relied upon the documents already submitted by him along with his nomination papers prior to the 2013 elections.
The counsel for Asif had said Dar was trying to achieve his mala fide objectives and seeking re-adjudication of the election dispute indirectly.
Asif had claimed that the business relationship between the company and the respondent was in accordance with the law and did not relate to the national security.