Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar on Wednesday asked Akram Shiekh, the lawyer representing PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, whether any documents were available to prove that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) had accepted prohibited funds.
The chief justice was presiding over the three-member apex bench, comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Umar Atta Bandiyal, that has been hearing a petition submitted by Abbasi seeking the disqualification of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PTI Secretary General Jahangir Tareen for the non-disclosure of assets, ownership of offshore companies, and for PTI being a foreign-aided party.
During Tuesday's proceedings in the apex court, Sheikh had argued before the apex bench that Khan had submitted a "fake" certificate before the Election Commission of Pakistan [ECP] to show that no donations from prohibited sources were received by the party and therefore, should be disqualified under Article 62 of the Constitution.
However, the chief justice had observed that the Political Party Order (PPO) 2002 did not envisage such a penalty for the submission of a “fake” certificate.
"On what basis can it be said that the certificate [submitted by the PTI] is fake?" the chief justice asked the lawyer on Wednesday.
He told Sheikh that the jurisdiction of determining that the funds received by a political party are illegal rested with the ECP. However, the PML-N lawyer said that the ECP has been denied its authority.
Sheikh told the bench that the chief justice's observations from a day earlier warranted further clarification.
"The nation should be made aware that funds were accepted [by the PTI] from multinational companies," Sheikh said, adding that the PTI had admitted to accepting prohibited funds.
"Prohibited funds can be confiscated; there are laws that allow such funds to be confiscated," Sheikh argued. "If the head of a political party submits fake certificates, politicians will cease to be honest."
Listening to PML-N's lawyer, Justice Bandiyal told him that he would have to prove that the PTI had accepted prohibited funds.
Sheikh claimed that foreign corporations sent $40,760 to PTI Pakistan, an argument that was turned down by the chief justice.
"The records don't prove this," he said. He also pointed out the possibility that corporations that funded PTI are owned by overseas Pakistanis.
Sheikh, however, said he cannot "bear the burden" of obtaining the certificates of the corporations funding PTI. The PML-N lawyer urged the court to maintain its neutrality.
Justice Nisar assured him that the bench realised its responsibility and was only questioning him to establish a clear understanding of the case.
The petition accuses PTI of receiving funds exceeding one million dollars from PTI USA, which is against USA's Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). However, the chief justice maintained that American law is not applicable in Pakistan.
Sheikh has argued that since the PTI has not disclosed the name of its donors, the party must be disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. "An MNA can be disqualified even for failing to declare his (or her) assets," Sheikh had said, bringing up the recent disqualification of Nawaz Sharif.