LAHORE: Not satisfied with their assurances, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar has directed three senators-elect to submit affidavits, vowing that they have ‘permanently’ and ‘irrevocably’ renounced and surrendered their other nationalities.
The CJP issued this directive on Thursday while heading a three-judge bench, hearing a suo motu case against dual nationality of judges, officials of the court and government and members of parliament at the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry.
Two senators-elect from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s sister Sadia Abbasi and Nuzhat Sadiq – and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Chaudhry Sarwar, appeared before the bench.
The bench had earlier stopped the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from issuing notification for four winning candidates – Abbasi, Sadiq and Sarwar as well as another PML-N candidate Haroon Akhtar Khan – elected as senators in the March 3 Senate elections, and asked them to appear before the court.
Khan, however, failed to appear before the bench and a request for adjournment was made on his behalf by his counsel Barrister Ali Zafar. On Thursday, the three senators-elect submitted documents in support of their claim that they had already renounced their foreign citizenships before the Senate polls.
Sarwar told the court that he relinquished his UK’s nationality on July 12, 2013, before becoming Punjab governor. Abbasi said she renounced her US citizenship in 2012. The CJP said he was surprised to learn that she had surrendered her US citizenship years before seeking nomination papers for Senate polls.
“You are representatives of Pakistan who first get dual nationalities for foreign benefits but surrendered the same to take benefit from your own country,” the top judge remarked.
The bench also expressed concern when a PTI leader Andleeb Abbas, who has challenged candidature of both Abbasi and Sadiq before the ECP, claimed that Abbasi had also been holding the office of an MNA on a reserved seat till 2008.
The top judge observed that the court would look into the matter of Abbasi’s qualification for her previous stint as a parliamentarian.
Later, expressing dissatisfaction with their assurances, the court asked all the three senators-elect to submit affidavits that the renunciation of their foreign citizenships is permanent and irreversible.
The bench also appointed two senior lawyers – Bilal Minto and Khalid Javed Khan – as amicus curiae to assist the court on the question whether the renunciation of the foreign nationality claimed by senators was permanent under the law of the UK and the US.
The bench also stopped the ECP from issuing notification of another newly-elected Balochistan senator, Kuda Babar, and issued a notice to him as it announced resuming the hearing on March 10 at the Lahore registry to decide the issue before election for the new chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate.
Shehbaz Sharif asked to return money
In another suo motu case about use of public money for advertisement campaigns of development projects by the provincial governments, the CJP directed Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif to deposit a sum of Rs5.5 million, spent on advertisement campaigns of various development projects of the Punjab government to public exchequer.
During the hearing, Punjab Information Secretary told the court that Rs10.2 million were spent for commercials released by the government. He revealed Rs5.5 million had been paid for advertisements, bearing the picture of Shehbaz Sharif.
The CJP observed that the amount should have been spent on purchase of medicine for the poor and other lingering civic issues. Monthly spending on advertisement amounts to a whopping Rs1.5 billion annually, Justice Nisar remarked.
He was also shown posters depicting portraits of the ruling party leaders, including the CM. The CJP said the general elections are round the corner and the government will spend more public money on its campaign.
He also inquired about the methodology for spending money on government commercials. The top judge also issued notices to the ruling PML-N, Shehbaz, Punjab government and the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS).
Last month, the CJP took a suo motu notice of advertisements run by the provincial governments. He also constituted a three-judge bench and ordered provincial information secretaries to submit records of awarding advertisements to print and electronic media.
The CJP had remarked that the taxpayers’ money is being spent for self-projection and advertisements are being issued on public expense. “Isn’t it like pre-poll rigging?” he had questioned.
Railway minister summoned
The court also summoned Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique on March 10 to explain his connections with Paragon City (Lahore) and Twin Towers at 1-Constitutional Avenue, Islamabad.
The court also summoned the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) officer concerned to know about scope of investigations in Paragon Housing Society case.
The bench – comprising the CJP, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan – passed these orders while hearing a suo motu notice regarding LDA City Housing Scheme Lahore.
As the proceedings began, the LDA Director General Zahid Akhtar Zaman appeared before the bench and submitted two separate reports regarding partner companies and relevant laws which allow the LDA to engage private firms for acquiring the housing scheme land.
He said the authority was empowered to engage private firms for the housing scheme under Section-13 of the LDA (Amendment) Ordinance besides other laws.
The director general admitted that the NAB was also holding an inquiry into the LDA City case, in response to a bench query. He said six companies were selected for acquiring the LDA City land but one company did not start its operation. Only five companies actually took part in the process, he added.
However, Imtiaz Rafi Butt, an owner of Millennium Land Company, explained that his company had also withdrawn itself from the project. The director general further apprised the bench about partner companies and their owners, including Urban Developers, Pak Estate and Paragon City.
He submitted that he was trying to get full details from the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan about directors/owners of the Paragon City.
The CJP observed that it was publicly known that Railways Minister Saad Rafique had connections with Paragon City and Twin Towers. “He should be summoned to explain his position in this regard,” the CJP added. Summoning the minister and the NAB officer, the bench adjourned further hearing till March 10.
Spurious Medicines Business
In another case, Justice Nisar directed Punjab Inspector General of Police Arif Nawaz to hold an inquiry against Bahawalpur Regional Police Officer Raja Riffat on charges of misuse of power to hamper the course of law to protect one of his relatives. The CJP directed the IGP to do an inquiry into the charges and submit his report by March 12.
[WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP]