SC questions Asif over benefits he received from UAE employer after becoming minister

SC questions Asif over benefits he received from UAE employer after becoming minister

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ISLAMABAD: A three-judge Supreme Court bench hearing an appeal of former foreign minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif against his disqualification from holding public office asked on Monday if the appellant as minister had used his influence for getting benefits from his employer in the United Arab Emirates.

The Islamabad High Court had on April 26 disqualified Mr Asif for not disclosing his UAE iqama (work permit) in the nomination papers he submitted for the 2013 general elections.

‘‘What kind of advice Mr Asif offered to his UAE employer?’’ asked Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who headed the SC bench.

Senior counsel Muneer A. Malik, representing Mr Asif, argued that his client’s foreign employment did not fall under the conflict of interest.

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Mr Asif mentioned details of his tax returns as well as the wealth reconciliation statement of the last three years in the nomination papers, said the counsel.

Justice Bandial observed that since Mr Asif was an important politician, those who had given him the UAE iqama might have had the obvious purpose of getting some benefits from him. He also noted that the appellant received a substantial increase in the salary after he became minister.

The observation came when the counsel explained before the court that the monthly salary of Mr Asif increased from AED9,000 to AED30,000 in 2014 and to AED50,000 in 2017.

When asked why the appellant’s salary registered a big increase, the counsel said because the advice of his client was making his UAE employer prosperous.

Justice Bandial observed that Mr Asif remitted Rs34 million in 2010 which suggested that he had a foreign capital.

At this, the counsel explained that his client had an original capital of $25,000 invested in a restaurant business.

Until 1980 before joining politics, the counsel said, his client was a non-resident Pakistani and a banker who used to work for the BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International). The counsel emphasised that no law in Pakistan prohibited any legislator from being engaged in an employment.

The counsel rejected the allegation that Mr Asif had purposely mentioned ‘business’ as his occupation in the nomination papers in a bid to hide his employment in a UAE firm.

He was of the opinion that having an occupation, business and employment should not attract disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.

Lifetime disqualification under this provision was understandable for concealing qualification or having dual nationality, he added.

About not mentioning a bank account with NBAD bank-UAE holding a nominal amount of AED4,700 (approximately Rs130,000) in the nomination papers, the counsel argued that this aspect was not pleaded before the high court. Terming it a bona fide accidental omission, he said the amount in the bank account was so insignificant.

The counsel referred to the observation in the high court in which it was stated that his client had taken a stance which amounted to acknowledging that he had made a false contract with the intent of deceiving the laws of another sovereign state (the UAE).

He argued that the UAE laws had been completely misconstrued by the high court.

The apex court postponed the proceedings till May 31, when Sikander Bashir Mohmand, representing Muhammad Usman Dar, will commence his arguments.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2018

Source: News

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