Islamabad: In a blow to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ahead of general elections, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday disqualified Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif from Parliament for life for holding a work permit of the United Arab Emirates.
The court announced its verdict on a petition stating that Asif did not mention his foreign employment in his nomination papers, the Pakistani media reported.
Asif vowed to challenge the ruling and said he had never concealed his foreign work permit, the Express Tribune reported.
A three-member special bench ruled that Asif had been proven dishonest under the country`s Constitution because he did not fulfil constitutional requirements for a public office holder to disclose his all assets and sources of income. It also stated that he was not even qualified to contest the 2013 general elections.
The disqualification petition was filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Usman Dar, who lost elections to Asif in 2013, Geo News reported.
As per the petitioner, Asif was not entitled to be a Member of the National Assembly nor a federal minister under the unlimited term employment Contract between him and International Mechanical and Electrical Co (IMECO), a company in Abu Dhabi.
Asif was hired as a full-time employee of IMECO on July 2, 2011, and held various positions, including those of the legal adviser and special adviser, the petition stated.
It further said that since Asif did not declare the salary from the firm in the nomination papers while contesting the 2013 elections, he was not eligible to be elected as a member of the National Assembly. The petitioner said that Asif`s work permit was renewed on June 29, 2017, and is valid till June 28, 2019.
Asif admitted being employed as a legal advisor as stated in the employment form, however, he stressed that the business relationship between the company and the respondent was in accordance with the law.
He said his association with the foreign firm did not relate to the national security or any matter which may be in conflict with his official functions as the Foreign Minister.
It was not clear if Asif would have to step down from the post as Foreign Minister following the denotification from the Election Commission.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif`s daughter and senior PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz said Asif was disqualified in a "fixed match".
"Disqualify in a fixed match those you cannot face through the power of the vote. God willing, the people of Pakistan will vote for even the shadow of Khawaja Asif now," she tweeted.
PTI chairman Imran Khan hailed the verdict on Twitter saying, "Another darbari of the godfather disqualified on the same pattern."