ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed on Wednesday that the Supreme Court did not like to see the sword of disqualification hanging over parliamentarians, who were the representatives of people in a sovereign parliament.
Instead, he said, the court would scrutinise those public of fice-holders or heads of political parties who were guilty of corruption, deception, concealment or misdeclaradon of assets, adding that the court was hearing the Hanif Abbasi case with great patience because it wanted to lay down a proper and right precedent.
The chief justice was heading a three-judge Supreme Court bench that had taken up disqualification petitions against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and secretary general Jahangir Tareen.
Advocate Sikander Bashir Mohmand, who represents Mr Tareen, argued that the petitioner had not instituted a petition in the public interest, but base d on political motives.
`This is a tit-for-tat response, filed in retaliation to Imran Khan`s petition over his demand for the accountability of the former prime minister,` the counsel argued.
Since the petitioner`s hands were not clean and he was not seeking the vindication of a public right, he was not entitled to the relief he was seeking, the counsel emphasised.
But Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked the counsel to draw a distinction in the light of the July 28 Panama Papers judgement and establish how his case was different from that of Nawaz Sharif.
Hanif Abbasi`s lawyer Akram Sheikh had argued that the rule determined by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers verdict was universal, the judge said, and asked Mr Tareen`s counsel how he expected to not be subjected to the same scrutiny as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was.
During the hearing, the chief justice pointed out that both sides had not explained the meaning of dishonesty, and wondered why the former chief justice did not fix this case before the same bench that heard and decided the Panamagate affair.
Sikandar Mohmand, however, maintained that as a holder of public office, his client was open and answerable toall kinds of accountability.
The counsel alleged that the petitioner instituted his petition after learning from the Panama Papers leaks that his client also possessed an offshore company, which was incorrect.
The counsel said that in the wake of the leaks, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had issued notices to Mr Tareen on Sept 2, 2016, seeking information regarding the basis for his inclusion in the Panama Papers.
But his client had denied the existence of any such offshore companies in his name, following which the FBR never took any action.
The chief justice recalled, however, that media reports had suggested that Mr Tareen owned an offshore company, which must have prompted the petitioner to approach the apex court.
Mr Mohmand argued that the case was filed by PML-N as an entity, not by Mr Abbasi as an individual.
But Azid Nafees, who represents Mr Abbasi, contended that his client never hid his association with the PML-N, adding that he had not moved the petition on behalf of his party.
Justice Bandial observed that while the acquisition of wealth by Mr Tareen may not be an issue in this case, but the declaration or non-declaration of an offshore company was.
Mr Tareen`s counsel also argued that irrefutable evidence was requiredneeded to seek a declaration on a petition moved under Article 184 of the Constitution, recalling that these allegations were levelled on the basis of a State Bank of Pakistan letter about written-off loans that was sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
He pointed out that SBP later realised its error and retracted the latter, but the court recalled that that Tareen was minister for industries and had been accused of using his influence to have loans written off in 2007, without any evidence.
Referring to allegations that the agriculture income and tax shown in Mr Tareen`s nomination papers for the year 2013 and 2015 were different, the counsel explained that the petitioner had focused on the 2013 nomination form, while client was elected after the 2015 by-elections.
But both nomination papers were affirmed by your client, Justice Bandial observed, adding that one of the figures quoted in the nomination papers had to be wrong. The chief justice also observed that there were two declarations and a discrepancy was clearly visible.
The counsel, however, argued that Justice Shiekh Azmat Saeed in his Panamagate judgement had held that Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution was only attracted when there was a breach of legal obligation, which was not the case here.