Imran Khan accused of changing stance on Banigala estate

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the fresh rejoinder, submitted by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan to justify the purchase of his Banigala estate, contradicted his previous pleadings.

Mr Abbasi alleged that the rejoinder was manufactured to specifically address inconsistencies in their case and was, therefore, unreliable.

Mr Abbasi, through his counsel Mohammad Akram Sheikh, had filed an application alleging that Mr Khan had changed his position about the purchase of the Banigala land.

The application may be taken up by a three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, when it resumes hearing the disqualification case against the PTI chief on Thursday.

Hanif Abbasi points out contradictions between PTI chief’s earlier submissions and latest rejoinder

On Sept 25, Mr Khan moved a fresh rejoinder insisting that his repayment of a loan to Jemima Khan was a matter that had been settled between husband and wife, leaving nothing to declare to any authority, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

But Mr Abbasi noted that in his initial concise statement, Mr Khan had claimed that he bought the Banigala land for himself, whereas his ex-wife Jemima merely remitted funds for this purpose as a loan, and that the sale agreement was also in his name.

However, the PTI chief never made any reference that the land was being purchased for the benefit of his former wife, rather their case was that Mr Khan was purchasing the land for himself, in Jemima’s name.

In his affidavit, Mr Khan claimed that he had purchased the property for Jemima and their children and the land mutation was also in her name. But in order to pay for the land, the PTI chief claimed to have acquired “bridge financing” from Jemima, which was later returned.

But in his rejoinder, Mr Abbasi said, Mr Khan allegedly backtracked from his earlier stance when he claimed that the Banigala property was purchased by Jemima herself. Thus, Mr Khan completely suppressed the fact that he obtained a loan from Jemima to purchase the land, the petitioner alleged.

“This stance is a complete deviation from his earlier pleadings,” Mr Abbasi insisted, adding that the position adopted in the fresh reply was that the land was always the exclusive property of Jemima and was paid for by her.

The application pointed out that in his wealth statement for the year ending June 2002, filed with the Federal Board of Revenue, Mr Khan had accounted for Rs6.5 million as a gift to his then-wife.

However, in his nomination form filed in the year 2002, Mr Khan had declared the same amount as an “advance”, whereas the column pertaining to gifts was empty.

Referring to Mr Khan’s offshore company Niazi Services Limited (NSL), the application argued that being an asset, the same was liable to be declared. Moreover, just as Mr Khan had admitted to being the owner of the London flat, the funds in NSL’s account were also his assets that needed to be declared.

Referring to the stand taken by Mr Khan that the use of the term “benami” by Jemima in the power of attorney document was an error, the application stressed that it was completely contrary to the record and an afterthought.

The wording of the power of attorney is self-explanatory, wherein two separate assertions have been made by Jemima with regard to the land. Firstly, “That the land… was purchased by Imran Khan Niazi”; and secondly, “The land was transferred in my name through mutation… by my ex-husband Imran Khan Niazi ‘as a benami transaction’ after the separation/divorce between me and Imran Khan.”

Since the land was purchased in Jemima’s name and the funds were provided by Mr Khan, a strong presumption arose that Jemima was, in fact, a benamidaar, Mr Abbasi insisted.