The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned Advocate Sikander Mohammad, the counsel representing Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Secretary General Jahangir Tareen, regarding discrepancies in his client’s income records.
A three-member bench of the apex court ─ headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab ─ was hearing a petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi which seeks the disqualification of Tareen and PTI Chief Imran Khan over the alleged non-disclosure of assets, existence of offshore companies, as well as receiving foreign funding for PTI.
During the hearing, the court observed that the income declared by Tareen before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in his nomination papers was less than the figure declared on his tax returns, wondering if the discrepancy alluded to money laundering.
Advocate Mohammad, however, told the bench that Tareen had not concealed any part of his income, adding that his client was required to only submit details of income he had received from his personal land to the ECP.
The lawyer then told the court that Tareen had declared before the Federal Board of Revenue the income that he received from land on contract.
The court asked Advocate Mohammad to provide records that prove the land he was referring to was, in fact, on contract.
“What will your client’s position be if the records prove that the land was not contractual?” the chief justice asked the lawyer.
“Your client has been accused of money laundering,” Justice Bandial observed.
As the lawyer told the court that his client pays the highest amount of tax in Pakistan, the SC again referred to the Panama Papers case which disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for not declaring an iqama and an income he had received from his son’s Dubai-based company.
“The Panama Papers verdict was based on hiding of facts, not on the intent to give false statements,” the chief justice had remarked during the hearing of the case a day earlier.
“The Panama Papers case was about assets exceeding income,” the chief justice observed during Thursday’s hearing, adding that the SC can open an investigation if it is found that false statements were made in the nomination papers. He reminded the lawyer that in the Panama Papers case, the SC had formed a joint investigation team to probe allegations of money laundering against the Sharif family.
“Our case is different from the Panama Papers case,” the lawyer said, arguing that while former prime minister had held the office for 36 years, Tareen had only done so for 3 years.
“How much tax was paid on the land [on contract]?” Justice Bandial asked. The lawyer told the court that he would submit the required documents once he had acquired them.
“We are not here for tax scrutiny,” the chief justice said. “Do you accept that there is a discrepancy in the income declared on the tax returns and the nomination papers?” he asked the lawyer.
The lawyer responded that he did not, adding that the nomination papers were incomplete.
The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.