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Objections to be heard today to Zardari’s disqualification writs

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) will on Tuesday hear objections to petitions seeking disqualification of former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for holding public office.

The IHC registrar office has raised administrative objections over the petitions filed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Mohammad Usman Dar and Khurram Sher Zaman, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) member of the Sindh Assembly.

The petitions sought a declaration that Mr Zardari was allegedly 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 or chosen as a member of the National Assembly.

The petitions also sought a declaration that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should hold that Mr Zardari was not qualified to be elected or chosen or to officiate as or exercise powers of the “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 Mr Zardari are respondents in the petitions.

IHC’s registrar office has raised administrative objections over petitions filed against PPP co-chairman by two PTI leaders

The PTI leaders in their petitions accused Mr Zardari of indulging in “intentional and wilful concealment”, suppression and non-disclosure in the June 6, 2018 nomination papers filed to contest general elections from NA-213 constituency, of an apartment with a current market value in excess of $729,240 (Rs102 million) on the Upper East Side of New York City in the Borough of Manhattan (the US).

This immoveable property, the petitions alleged, was owned and held by Mr Zardari under his name since 2007 as substantiated and proved through a number of documents.

The petitions cited General Power of Attorney executed allegedly by Mr Zardari pursuant to Article 5, Title 15 of the New York General Obligations law on June 7, 2007 through which Mr Zardari allegedly appointed Mehreen Shah as his attorney to act in his place in respect of all real estate transactions, chattel and goods transactions, bond, share and commodity transactions, banking transactions, insurance transactions and tax matters.

The execution of power of attorney by Mr Zardari, besides his own signatures appearing thereon, is further affirmed by a duly notarised “acknowledgement” of his execution, the petitions alleged. Besides, there was also an affidavit signed by Ms Shah that the power of attorney was in full force, the petitions argued, adding that it was countersigned by the Consulate General of Pakistan in New York and the documents comprising power of attorney and related documents were issued and certified by the department of finance, office of the City Registrar, Manhattan, New York.

Other documents include bargain and sale deed of June 20, 2007, real property transfer report of the State of New York, unit power of attorney, and property tax bill quarterly statements for April 2018, November 2018 and January 2019. The documents also contain a newspaper clipping highlighting payment of taxes for the New York apartment.

The petitioners alleged that the property tax documents proved that Mr Zardari had been the owner of the apartment not just in June 2017 but also on the date of filing of the petitions. He allegedly also suppressed an asset called parking space described as Unit 30A, Block 1483, Lot 1058 located at 524 East 72nd Street in the Borough of Manhattan, they said.

The only immoveable property outside Pakistan as mentioned in the nomination papers of the former president is an open plot in Dubai (the UAE), the petitions alleged, adding that this was an intentional and dishonest violation of legal obligation under the Election Act.

On account of untruthful declarations, untruthful solemn affirmations and false statement of assets, the PPP leader was not qualified to be and was in fact liable to be disqualified from being member of the parliament under Articles 62(1)(f) of the Constitution and Section 231 of the Election Act, the petitions said.

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