ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s order seeking details of his and his family’s assets, contending that the ruling is like conducting a trial of the grave of Benazir Bhutto, his slain wife and former prime minister.
“The impugned order even seeks details of assets belonging to the petitioner’s late wife Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. This equates to aiding petitioner to conduct trial on the martyr’s grave,” says the review petition filed by Zardari through his counsel Farooq H Naek against the SC’s August 29 order wherein he was asked to submit complete details of their local and foreign properties, including bank accounts, which they have owned since 2007.
The bench – while hearing a petition moved by the President of Lawyers Foundation for Justice Feroz Shah Gilani Advocate for the recovery of losses Pakistan had incurred after the promulgation of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) – had also directed Zardari, Pervez Musharraf and Malik Abdul Qayyam to file comprehensive statements of assets and bank accounts in their and their spouses’ names in the last 10 years.
Zardari, the former president and Pakistan Peoples Party Co-chairperson, has expressed inability to produce details due to ‘practical difficulties’.
“The order fails to take into account practical difficulties that would occur in attempting to gather the information required to be furnished in the affidavit sought under the said order. The record is likely to have shredded and no longer available especially when it comes to old property documents and details of their sale and purchase price,” says the review petition filed by Zardari.
The petitioner laments that despite the evidence and apparent frivolous nature of the four years’ old constitutional petition, the court entertained the same and passed the order.
The review plea contends that the court order to get assets detail is nothing but against his fundamental right as such order cannot be passed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. It also states that the issue of double jeopardy arises in favour of the accused in the matter since he has already been acquitted in a number of cases on the same subject.
“The order also runs contrary to the established jurisdiction of Pakistan as there does not exist any provision in the law of Pakistan which a requires a person to disclose all his assets and business activities that he may have conducted over past decade,” argues the petition.
According to the petitioner, even income tax limitation prescribed for assessment by section 121 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 is five years and anything before the same is exempt from assessment.
“Likewise, under section 60 of the Elections Act, 2017, a candidate [is] only [bound] to furnish a statement of his assets and liabilities for the proceedings year, whereas under the August 29 order the affidavit to be supplied covers the period from October 5, 2007 till date which is unheard of,” contends the petition, adding that a candidate is only supposed to furnish details of his spouse and dependent children under the election law whereas the concerned court order prima facie seeks children’s assets who are not dependent.
“The impugned order erroneously shifts the burden of proof to the petitioner [Zardari] to prove that he is innocent which is something he has done time and again insofar as he has been acquitted multiple times on merit,” states the petition.
“Even otherwise since the petitioner has been acquitted in cases pertaining to the same subject matter to agitate the same by attempting to gather evidence from the petitioner himself would be contrary to the double jeopardy principle enshrined in Article 13 of the Constitution,” contends Zardari, pleading that the top court review its earlier order.