Lahore High Court issues detailed order in Shahid Khaqan Abbasi disqualification case

An appellate tribunal at the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday issued its detailed verdict on the barring of former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi from contesting elections from his native NA-57 (Murree) constituency in the July 25 polls, ruling that the former prime minister was not honest and sagacious and hence disqualified for life.

It should be mentioned that the LHC had suspended the appellate tribunal's verdict on June 29, making room for Abbasi to be able to contest the July 25 elections.

The detailed 10-page verdict released today, penned by Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi, observed that the petitions against Abbasi had claimed that he was guilty of concealment of facts for not providing "the correct details and description of the immoveable property held by him within Pakistan" and for "intentionally and knowingly understating the costs of the assets".

Finding him guilty of the charges, the judge said Abbasi had "exposed himself to the disqualification clause as provided in Articles 62 and 63 of The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and is not a qualified person to be elected or chosen as a Member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)."

The court in its verdict said the appellants had noted a "marked difference in between the contents of two affidavits separately filed by the respondent/candidate along with two separate nomination papers i.e. one filed against Serial No.03 on 09.06.2018 and second filed against Serial No.12 on 11.06.2018 for constituency of NA-57 (Rawalpindi-I)."

Clause E in the affidavit filed along with the nomination paper titled Serial No.03 stated 'none', whereas the same clause in the papers titled Serial No.12 "was tampered with by first writing the words NONE in the same manner as was mentioned in the earlier affidavit, but after interpolation, shares in Air Blue and Blue Pines Inn Murree were noted down against such column," the verdict noted.

The RO and Abbasi's lawyer provided differing versions as to how and why this had occurred. "The stances taken by the RO and that of in the affidavit of Mr Asad Iqbal Abbasi, Advocate are inter-contradictory and either one of such stances is false."

The verdict also noted that the cost of a house owned by Abbasi in Islamabad's F-7/2 sector was shown on Form B of the nomination papers to be Rs300,000, although, in that locale, "only the open [undeveloped] land is worth Rs 50 to 60 lakhs (Rs5-6 million) per marla".

Additionally, Abbasi had mortgaged the same house to a bank against an amount of Rs24.7 million.

"Either the cost of such house has incorrectly been shown as Rs300,000, or, if the same is the actual cost of the house, then the respondent/candidate must have obtained the mortgaged money more than 80 times of the actual cost of mortgaged property from the Bank by using his influence of being a Member of Parliament or subsequent Prime Minister of Pakistan," the verdict noted.

"Both the positions cannot be reconciled conveniently," it added.

The verdict observed that the purpose of furnishing asset details at the time of nomination is to give a fair picture of a candidate to voters.

"But in the case in hand, the respondent/candidate has attempted to conceal all such material facts from the constituency and the intention of the Constitution, law and the interim order passed by the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan on 06.06.2018 [...] whereby a detailed affidavit was directed to be executed by the candidates giving full particulars for the voters," read the verdict.

Justice Lodhi regretted that Abbasi "has been a Leader of House and thus, as prime minister, was considered to be the face of the nation."

"The nation needs its face to be clean and clear in order to earn some respect from [the] remaining world, which is not possible if such rusty faces are allowed to represent the nation," he regretted, adding that nations "expect high moral standards from their leaders by placing them at somewhat higher pedestal and giving a place of a role model to a leader."

The judgement declared Abbasi "guilty of concealment of facts and withholding of the complete information from his voters."

According to the judgement, Abbasi "is not an honest and ameen person" and thus "not a qualified person to be elected or chosen as a Member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) within the meaning of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution."

On June 23, Justice Lodhi had suspended the RO for NA-57 (Murree) Haider Ali Khan for accepting incomplete nomination forms submitted by Mr Abbasi.

In today's verdict, the judge stated that the suspension would continue, and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to appoint a new RO for NA-57, where by-elections are to be held in October.

The LHC Registrar was also directed to initiate proceedings against Haider Ali Khan for misconduct.

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