Pakistan court removes foreign minister in blow to ruling party

Khawaja Muhammad Asif speaks during a joint press conference with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Afghanistan's Foreign Minister

The Islamabad High Court on Thursday disqualified the country's Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif for holding a work permit in the United Arab Emirates and hiding his income, local media reported.

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.

Last July, its leader Nawaz Sharif was ousted from the premiership by the Supreme Court over graft allegations and then barred from politics for life by another decision earlier this month.

The judgment further said, "The Registrar of this Court is directed to send certified copy of this judgment to the Election Commission for de-notifying the Respondent as Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan".

Asif was still receiving the salary and allowance while serving as foreign minister, the petitioner claimed while requesting the court to disqualify him.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Usman Dar, who had contested against Asif during 2013 general elections in the NA-110 constituency from PTI's platform, filed a petition against Khawaja Asif, arguing that Asif hid the fact of holding an Iqama, or a foreign work permit, in his nomination papers.

Despite several rulings against the PML-N, the party has won a string of recent by-elections, proving it will likely remain a force in the next polls.

Reacting the court's order, Khwaja Asif, while talking to Geo's famous anchor Hamid Mir, said that he will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court. The bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, had reserved the verdict on April 10.

The prime minister should force Asif to resign if he didn't tender his resignation himself, he said, demanding the resignations from Khawaja Asif, Ahsan Iqbal and Ishaq Dar.

Likewise, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified on Dec 15 past year by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.

"Mark my word, people will vote even the shadow of Khawaja Asif" in next elections, Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former premier Sharif, wrote on her Twitter account.

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