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PTI begins legal battle against Khawaja Asif’s victory from NA-73

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Saturday challenged the election result of NA-73 (Sialkot) won by Khawaja Asif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

PTI’s Usman Dar filed the plea with the election tribunal. After the July 25 polls, the ECP, on request of the PTI, had conducted recount of 7,300 rejected votes, but Asif remained triumphant after recounting of ballots.

In his petition, the PTI leader contended that Asif submitted unverified affidavit for contesting polls. He also claimed that the PML-N leader concealed assets in his nomination papers submitted to the election commission.

Laying the emphasis on difference of victory margin of mere 1406 votes, the PTI leader requested the tribunal to order recount in the constituency.

He also appealed for declaring the victory notification of NA-73 as void.

Khawaja Asif had won the constituency with 116957 votes, while Usman Dar came runner-up with 115,464 votes.

On April 26 this year, then foreign minister Khawaja Asif was disqualified by the Islamabad High Court under Article 62 of the Constitution for concealing facts about holding an Iqama [foreign work permit].

A larger bench of the high court on April 10 had reserved its verdict over the petition filed by PTI member Usman Dar, seeking disqualification of the foreign minister for concealing the facts about holding an Iqama.

However on June 1, the Supreme Court annulled the verdict of IHC that disqualified Asif and barred him from contesting polls.

The decision was announced by a three-member bench headed by Justice Umar Atta Bandial. Asif had filed a review petition in the SC against his disqualification in late April.

Asif’s counsel Muneer A. Malik, in the plea, had informed the court that the former foreign minister was disqualified on three grounds: ie, holding an Iqama, not declaring his salary in his nomination papers, and not declaring a sum of 4,700 UAE dirhams in his nomination papers.

According to his counsel, the nomination papers for 2013 elections had only asked for three prior years of tax declarations, which was included by Asif, he argued, before adding that Asif’s tax declaration from 2012 included details of the salary he received from his Iqama job.

The case background

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Usman Dar, who had contested against Asif during 2013 general elections in the NA-110 constituency from PTI’s platform, had filed a petition against Khawaja Asif, arguing  that Asif hid the fact of holding an Iqama, or a foreign work permit, in his nomination papers.

Dar, through his counsel Sikandar Bashir Mohmand, 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).

Earlier, Mohmand had argued before another larger bench that Asif in his nomination papers mentioned himself as a businessman whereas his Abu Dhabi Iqama proved that he was and still is an employee of a company in a different capacity.

The petitioner had adopted a stance that Asif is ineligible to hold the office of MNA as well as federal minister for being a party to an ‘unlimited term employment contract’ between him and the International Mechanical and Electrical Company (IMECL) – a limited liability company located in Abu Dhabi and existing under UAE laws.

“Asif has been hired as a full-time employee of IMECO since July 2, 2011 and served at various positions, including legal and special advisor,” the PTI leader claimed in his petition.

According to the contract signed between two parties, Asif was to receive a monthly basic salary of AED 35,000 along with a monthly allowance of AED 15,000.

Asif was still receiving the salary and allowance while serving as foreign minister, the petitioner claimed while requesting the court to disqualify him.

Khawaja Asif had earlier submitted a letter of a UAE-based International Mechanical and Electrical company in the court stating that he had never served as full-time employee of the firm.

It merits to note here that the employment permits of two federal ministers –  Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal – were surfaced after the Panama joint investigation team (JIT) unearthed ex-PM Nawaz Sharif’s UAE-based Iqama (work permit).

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