A PAKISTANI court disqualified foreign minister Khawaja Asif from parliament last Thursday (26), striking another blow to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) party ahead of a general election due in a few months.
The Islamabad high court verdict against Asif is one of several judicial setbacks for the PML-N since the supreme court removed party founder Nawaz Sharif as prime minister in July.
Asif said he would challenge the decision in the supreme court. It was not clear if he would have to relinquish control of the foreign ministry, since he could remain in charge as an adviser to the prime minister.
Asif, a close ally of Sharif, is one of the most high-profile PML-N figures in government and was among names tipped to replace Sharif when the three-time prime minister was disqualified by the top court over undeclared income.
Sharif and other top PML-N officials have complained that the judiciary is targeting the party ahead of the general election, which is expected in July.
Usman Dar, a rival politician from Asif’s constituency in the town of Sialkot, near the Indian border, filed a petition against Asif to have him disqualified over the possession of an “iqama”, a work permit for the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The court ruled Asif did not fully disclose his status as an employee of a UAE company and therefore was “not qualified” to be in parliament. It removed him using Article 62 of the constitution, which stipulates parliamentarians must be “honest and righteous”, and which was also used to oust Sharif.
“We have handed down this judgment with a heavy heart,” the Islamabad high court said in its ruling.
Sharif, speaking shortly after the verdict against Asif, urged party workers to mobilise ahead of the elections, no matter what happens in the courts.