The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday reserved its verdict on the admissibility of a petition seeking the disqualification of PTI Chairman Imran Khan for concealing his alleged daughter, Tyrian White from his election papers.
Last year, petitioner Muhammad Sajid had filed a plea in the IHC claiming that although Imran made arrangements for Tyrian White’s upkeep in the United Kingdom, he did not disclose it in nomination papers and affidavits filed by him for contesting elections.
Submitting his response to the IHC, the former premier on Feb 1 had requested the court to dismiss the petition, saying that it was “not maintainable” on legal grounds as he was no longer a lawmaker.
Subsequently, the IHC had decided to constitute a larger bench to hear the petition. On Feb 9, it had emphasised that arguments on the plea’s admissibility were highly important.
The IHC was to initially decide on the petition’s maintainability on March 21 but had adjourned the hearing till today, directing Imran’s counsel to conclude his arguments on its maintainability.
A three-member larger bench — consisting of IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir — presided over the hearing today.
Advocate Hamid Ali Shah was present as the petitioner’s counsel while Advocate Salman Akram Raja and Advocate Abuzar Salman were present as Imran’s representatives.
Advocates Saad Hasan and Zegham Anees were present as the Election Commission of Pakistan’s lawyers.
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Farooq said: “Till now, according to the record, Imran Khan has neither denied nor accepted anything. Till now, the court is hearing this petition regarding its admissibility.”
Addressing Shah, the petitioner’s counsel, Justice Farooq said: “You tell us about the basic points; is Tyrian under the guardianship of Imran Khan or not? Is Imran Khan a public office holder now or not?
“If there is something new in response to the points [raised by Imran’s lawyer] Salman Akram Raja, tell us that. Till now, neither Imran Khan’s admission nor rebuttal is on record.”
To this, Advocate Shah said: “Imran Khan did not disclose his daughter’s name in the affidavit given to the election commission.”
He said that according to the Holders of Public Exchequer (Accountability) Act 2015, Imran cannot remain as party head.
The lawyer argued: “Imran Khan did not respond to the facts mentioned in the petition, which makes them accepted [by default].”
Here, the IHC chief justice observed that the court was hearing the case based on the petition’s admissibility.
Advocate Shah then proceeded to read out the affidavit submitted by Imran. He said: “Imran Khan mentioned Bushra Bibi, Kassem Khan and Suleman Khan in the affidavit. He said that the two sons live with their mother and are not under his financial guardianship.
Tyrian has not yet been married [so] she comes under [Imran’s] guardianship according to Islamic law, he argued.
Advocate Shah said that the petitioner is a Pakistani citizen like other citizens. “Even if the petition is against a party head, it is admissible,” he added.
The counsel asserted: “If someone submits a false affidavit, he is disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, according to [previous] court verdicts.”
At this point during the hearing, the court raised the question: “If the court determines that this affidavit was false, what will happen then?”
To this, the petitioner’s counsel responded that person would then be “disqualified from becoming a member of an assembly and remaining the party head”.
Upon the completion of Advocate Shah’s arguments, Justice Farooq said to the ECP lawyer: “We had asked you to submit documents.”
“What is the election commission’s stance on this?” the court asked the ECP lawyer, who then replied that “in the past, such petitions were dismissed on the basis of lack of evidence”.
Here, the IHC chief justice reiterated that the court had heard the petition “only to the extent of it being maintainable” and it would only be taken forward if found to be maintainable otherwise be dismissed.
Justice Farooq said: “Why not fine the election commission heavily for this behaviour?” The ECP lawyer said: “We only wanted to inform [the court] that we have dismissed cases based on lack of evidence.”
The IHC chief justice said that first the court would “decide whether this case is maintainable or not” and reserved its verdict on the matter of the plea’s admissibility.
Sajid, the petitioner, had alleged that the PTI chairman did not marry Sita White because her “racist father categorically told the respondent (Imran) that if he married Sita, they would not get a penny of his money”.
“Only thereafter, he met Jemima, another rich lady, and in a very short time married her.”
The petition, titled “Imran versus Imran — the untold story”, recalled the circumstances in which the custody of Tyrian Jade was given to Jemima.
It stated that Ana-Lusia White, in her will of Feb 27, 2004, had nominated Jemima Khan as guardian of her daughter Tyrian Jade Khan-White. Sita White died that year on May 13.
The petition went on to state: “Jemima Goldsmith had been the spouse of Imran Khan (1995-2004).
“The concealed facts stood confirmed by a judgement of paternity rendered by a superior court in California in favour of Sita White where it was held that the respondent (Imran Khan) was the father of Tyrian Jade.”
Imran Khan initially joined the proceedings through his attorney, but defaulted after he was asked to undergo a blood test, it added.
However, he later submitted a declaration to a court of guardianship when Caroline White, Sita’s sister, asked the court that she be appointed Tyrian’s guardian, the petition alleged.