News Analysis |
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday announced its verdict in favor of Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Ahmed Rashid in the misdeclaration of assets case against him.
The apex court dismissed the plea against outspoken and controversial leader seeking his disqualification for life. All eyes were on the SC after the court announced to rule on veteran politicians fate in politics.
The SC bench comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah ruled in his favor by 2-1.
Justice Isa wrote a dissent note and recommended that case should be sent to full court for further hearing.
Earlier, he had said in a statement that the principles and guidelines laid down in July 28, 2017, Panama case verdict would also apply to other cases.
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While dealing with the appeal filed by Malik Shakeel Awan of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Justice Isa had remarked that the Panama case involving the ‘House of Sharif’ was related to the Avenfield flats in London acquired through corruption money. But Nawaz Sharif was disqualified on the basis of United Arab Emirates Iqama.
His statement ignited the stir in the media as he had questioned the SC’s panama case judgment.
Shakeel Awan had accused the PTI ally of misdeclaring his assets in the nomination forms that he had submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the general elections in 2013.
The decision on Sheik’s case was reserved on March 20 after listening to the arguments from both sides.
Advocate Sheikh Ilyas was seeking disqualification of Mr. Sheikh under the Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, which was instrumental in ousting of PM Nawaz Sharif from the office on July 28, 2017, landmark verdict. Similar petitions were also filed against the Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf’s chairman Imran Khan and general secretary Jahangir Khan Tareen, over concealing assets and being dishonest, on which the later was disqualified.
Mr. Shiekh was accused of concealing the facts submitted in the general elections of 2013. Mr. Awan’s counsel Advocate Sheikh Ilyas had shown that in his nomination papers from NA-55, Mr. Sheikh had declared ownership of 983-kanal agricultural land, but in fact, he actually owned 1,081 -kanal agricultural land.
Secondly, it also challenged the Sheik’s disclosure of Rs2.2 million as profit from bank accounts when his bank statement reflected Rs5.3 million only.
Moreover, it questioned that why he showed over Rs 10 million receipt for the purchase of one-kanal land in the Bahria Gold City, when the buying price was Rs48 million [at the time of the purchase].
Sheikh Ilyas argued that Mr. Sheikh failed to declare his assets as per the requirement of Representation of Peoples Act (RoPA) 1976 according to which all candidates should disclose their entire assets.
He said the Panama case judgment has set the standard and endorsed the strict liability.
While Mr. Sheikh’s counsel Advocate Abdur Rashid Awan argued that his client has accepted his mistake over the calculation of certain valuation figures of his property/assets but never acknowledged any concealment of assets.
Shiekh Rashid’s acquittal will ignite another debate over the verdict. PML-N will seek explanation on why was he not disqualified despite not declaring his entire assets.
On June 01, Apex Court had also repealed the disqualification of the former Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif under the Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. He was disqualified over his failure to disclose his UAE iqama to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Legal experts elaborated the difference in these cases, despite the disqualification under same much-criticized article 62. Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen were disqualified for concealing their assets. But Khawaja was deemed unfit to continue as Member of Parliament over ambiguity in the disclosure of assets.
Sheik’s case was purely asset concealment. But unlike Nawaz in the Panama case, Rawalpindi based leader had accepted his mistake over the calculation of certain valuation figures of his property/assets but never acknowledged any concealment of assets.
The question was whether a legislator stood disqualified if it was proved that he or she had committed an error while filling out the nomination papers or his/her assets. Justice Isa did not acknowledge it and said that Panama Paper’s case judgment neither discussed nor had any mention of accepting mistake or error.
But others chose to disagree with him to dismiss the petition against Shiekh Rashid to allow him to contest from NA-60 and NA-62.