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Zardari’s disqualification: IHC removes objection on petition


News Analysis |

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday (today) heard a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), seeking disqualification of former president Asif Ali Zardari for concealing details of his assets. The petition was heard by Chief Justice Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minhallah. The court, as the hearing went underway, removed objections raised by the registrar office on disqualification writs.

The IHC registrar office had raised administrative objections over the petitions filed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Mohammad Usman Dar and Khurram Sher Zaman, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MPA from Sindh. The office had said the petitioners didn’t approach the relevant forum to have their grievance addressed. “The petitioners approached the Supreme Court despite the presence of the aforesaid forum.”

The PTI leaders also argued that Zardari’s alleged involvement in the money laundering of billions of rupees through fictitious bank accounts is also a ground for his disqualification.

During the hearing, the court said the petitioner must have approached the election commission. “Why do you bring political cases to the courts? A number of other cases are already pending here”, the court remarked. Dar’s counsel then said, “Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is not the relevant forum for disqualification under Article 62(1)(f). We have the Sindh High Court (SHC) order that ECP is not the authorized forum in this case.” Later, the court admitted the pleas for hearing.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Monday had moved a reference in the IHC seeking the disqualification of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari. It is important to note here that the similar petition was filed against Mr. Zardari in the Supreme Court (SC) but the registrar office returned the petition and advised the party to approach the relevant forum. Prior to it, the PTI’s leader also approached the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) but withdrew the petition saying they had more evidence which could only be presented before the top court.

The reference in the apex court was filed by PTI’s Member of Sindh Assembly Khurram Sher Zaman and PM’s Special Assistant on Youth Affairs Usman Dar, who cited the former president, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and National Assembly (NA) secretary as respondents.

Read more: PTI files reference against Asif Zardari: No deal, no NRO

The petitioners alleged that Zardari concealed details pertaining to ownership of an apartment in New York City, United States, in the nomination papers filed ahead of the general elections. He also failed to disclose two bulletproof vehicles, thus violating Article 62(f)(i) of the Constitution and Section 231 of the Election Act 2017, they maintained.

They alleged that both the apartment and the armored vehicles were not disclosed in Form B of the nomination papers filed by Zardari on July 6, 2018, as a candidate for NA-213. “Zardari occupies more than one office apart from co-chairing PPP, he is also president of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) which was a violation of Article 63 (a) of the Constitution” they added.

As a matter of fact, PTI enjoys a thin majority in Punjab, Baluchistan and at Centre. Any attempt to drastically challenge the political dynamics in the country may lead to a great and unmanageable political upheaval.

The PTI leaders also argued that Zardari’s alleged involvement in the money laundering of billions of rupees through fictitious bank accounts is also a ground for his disqualification. This is a serious allegation which is further confirmed after the report of JIT.

It is worth mentioning here that the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said on 18th December that PTI government was going to file a disqualification reference against the former president for failing to mention an apartment that he allegedly owns in the United States in the assets declaration submitted to the ECP.

Read more: Is Asif Ali Zardari afraid of accountability?

As a matter of fact, there is already an inquiry being conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against Mr. Zardari and his sister. Mr. Zardari is accused of money laundering during his tenure as the president of Pakistan. It is also worth mentioning that the former president has denied all the allegations and maintained that inquiries against him were politically motivated.

Analysts now view the decision of the PTI to withdraw the petition from the ECP with suspicion. Experts argue that the only relevant forum to seek the disqualification of a member of national assembly is the ECP. But the PTI leadership maintained that the apex court will consider their petition since they had some irrefutable evidence to offer.

Read more: 18th Amendment: Zardari & Bilawal exploiting provincial fears?

Moreover, it is now in the air as the PTI is not actually interested to get Mr. Zardari disqualified due to some political compulsions. As a matter of fact, PTI enjoys a thin majority in Punjab, Baluchistan and at Centre. Any attempt to drastically challenge the political dynamics in the country may lead to a great and unmanageable political upheaval.

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