IHC admits petition seeking Zardari’s disqualification

Justice Minallah tells counsel to prove relevance of forum, issue of ‘public interest’

Saqib Bashir January 30, 2019
Asif Ali Zardari. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday acknowledged that courts are the legal forum for petitions seeking disqualification of a public office holder under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

The court, however, asked the petitioners to satisfy the bench that it was a matter of public interest and should be heard on priority.

The high court was hearing objections to a petition seeking the disqualification of former president Asif Ali Zardari that was filed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Mohammad Usman Dar. The registrar had raised objections over the petition.

During the hearing, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked Dar's counsel why "political requests" were brought to courts even though the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was the legal forum for such appeals.

"Political matters should be resolved by political forums," Justice Minallah said, adding that there were already several pending cases in courts.

"Parliament can form a committee on this matter," he suggested. "This is the time to strengthen parliament."

Dar’s counsel Sikander Bashir argued that the case did not fall under ECP's jurisdiction as it sought disqualification under Article 62(1)(f). He said that there were documents that proved that Zardari had concealed his assets. He also referred to a verdict passed by the Sindh High Court in this regard.

The court accepted Bashir's arguments and dismissed the objections. However, Justice Minallah asked Bashir to convince the court as to why his client's petition should be heard on a "priority basis" when there was already a backlog of cases.

"You will have to convince the court that this case comes under public interest," the chief justice said.

The court will hear Dar's arguments over the case being one of public interest in the next hearing.

Talking to the media outside the court, PTI leader Dar predicted that the verdict in the petition seeking Zardari's disqualification will be "historic".

"Justice Minallah has issued many historic verdicts in the past," he said. "The decision of Zardari's disqualification case will also be historic."

"This is an open and shut case. I believe that Zardari will be disqualified for life," he claimed. Dar regretted that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had never asked Zardari from where he had acquired so much wealth.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders Dar and Khurram Sher Zaman had filed the petitions seeking the disqualification of the former president, alleging that Zardari had concealed his assets and was therefore dishonest. The petitions sought a declaration that Zardari was neither righteous nor sagacious in terms of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and also Section 231 of the Election Act, 2017 and, therefore, not qualified to be elected as a lawmaker.

The petitions also demanded that the ECP should hold that Zardari was not qualified to be elected or chosen or to officiate as or exercise powers of a "party head" within the meaning of Article 63A of the Constitution, including the offices of PPP-Parliamentarian president and PPP co-chairperson. The ECP, the National Assembly secretary and Zardari are respondents in the petitions.

The court adjourned hearing of the case for an indefinite period.


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