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Supreme Court clears Imran of graft charges
By Tariq Butt / Agencies December 16, 2017
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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday gave a clean chit to Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in accusations of dishonesty but disqualified his party’s secretary general Jahangir Tareen from parliament.

The court rejected the allegations levelled by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) against him but upheld the charges against Tareen.

The 250-page verdict was announced a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqab Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab.

VERDICT HAILED

Shortly after the judgment Imran held a press conference in Karachi where he told reporters “Pakistan’s highest court has exonerated me.”

“The taxpayers and those who earn their money through fair means and pay taxes should not be compared with the robbers and thieves,” Imran added.

“I gave 60 documents to the Supreme Court ... Nawaz Sharif, took 300 billion rupees out of this country which he has to answer for ... and for that he produced only one document,” Imran said.

Imran had faced being disqualified from holding political office over charges including unreported assets, namely the funds he used to buy a scenic, sprawling property in the Bani Gala hills on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad.

He has dismissed the claims as a political vendetta, saying he used money earned from his career as one of Pakistan’s most famous World Cup cricketers to buy the land and that he has the documentation to prove it.

The chief justice, reading out the judgment in the packed courtroom, said the court had found that Imran was not liable to declare offshore company Niazi Services Limited (NSL) in his 2013 nomination papers as he was not a shareholder or director of it.

It noted that the money trail provided by Imran sufficiently covered the Bani Gala Islamabad property’s purchase price, the funds provided by his ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith and the proceeds from the sale of Imran’s apartment in London.

The court held that the Bani Gala property was Imran’s; he had bought the land for his family, but was gifted it by his ex-wife after their separation.

The bench found Tareen to be dishonest under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and Section 99 of Representation of People Act (ROPA) on one count among the multiple charges brought against him.

Tareen is disqualified for the non-declaration of his property/asset i.e. ‘Hyde House’ in his nomination papers, and in making untrue statement before the court, the verdict said adding that he has no beneficial interest in SVL [offshore company]. Therefore, he should cease to hold the office as the member of the National Assembly with immediate effect.

The ruling noted that Tareen may have committed the offence of insider trading, but could not be judged for having committed a crime because of the terms of his settlement with the Securities and Exchange Corporation of Pakistan (SECP). The court stated that the matter had been closed by the SECP after Tareen paid a fine, and so could not be used as a grounds to disqualify him.

On the matter of alleged misrepresentation and short payment of agricultural income tax by Tareen, the court said it would not issue a declaration on it because the matter was currently sub judice in multiple courts.

The verdict said the court was not convinced that Tareen had been involved in acquiring loans and having them written off for his benefit, which would have demonstrated dishonesty. It noted that the loans acquired allegedly written off by Tareen were actually waived in 2010, before Tareen was even a shareholder or director of the company. Therefore, he could not be held responsible for it.

The court directed that the foreign funding case against PTI as a party be investigated by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), as Abbasi had no locus standi to pursue it. “It is the responsibility of the ECP to look at the foreign funding case in detail.”

The court said that the ECP should, for the sake of impartiality, look into the foreign funds of the party over the preceding five-year period only.

The chief justice said that the delay in the verdict, which was announced more than an hour late, was due to a mistake on one page. “We had to go through the entire 250-page document.”

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