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JKT – Imran’s de facto Chief of Staff. Was he a victim of a gross miscarriage of Justice?

Disclaimer. Every view is biased! Mine, yours and the so called objective one.

To say that JKT evokes strong emotions for and against, is the classic understatement.

Opinions about the man fluctuate wildly. One hears about. His very close and trusted relationship with Imran. His enormous influence in party and governance matters. His role in PTI’s electoral success, in corraling independents and political partners to get the required majority numbers in the Center and Punjab. His being central to the fairly public slugfests with the likes of Shah Mahmood, Ch. Sarwar, Hamid Khan, Saif Niazi and the silent rivalry with Asad Umar and others.

Depending on who you talk to, he’s either a brilliant genius, highly disciplined, organized, professional and meticulous in his planning and execution. An incredibly powerful negotiator, a very successful deal-maker in the cut and thrust of Realpolitik.

Many acknowledge him as the mastermind behind Imran’s and PTI’s electoral success. He is still Imran’s closest confidante and advisor who Imran listens to, respects, and a rainmaker who delivers impossible results.

Or

JKT is an ambitious, ruthless, vicious, selfish, political infighter who mercilessly destroys his political foes, inside or outside the party. He has caused great harm to the party bringing in the traditional corrupt politicos, destroying the party’s clean image. He has an amazing ability to rub people the wrong way, is arrogant and aloof and wants to exercise total control.

Some even allege that he is unscrupulous and leverages his political strength and closeness to Imran to promote his business interests. So there you have it. An enigma! Wherein lies reality? Difficult to answer in a binary black and white. But clearly somewhere in between!

So why am I writing about him, when there’s so much other stuff going on!

Rana Narco behind bars:

Zaradari’s benami properties being attached:

No silver linings for the Sharifs!

Desperation striking the opposition.

BLA being declared a terrorist outfit.

Imran’s forthcoming Trump meeting etc.

And most sadly, Bilawal opening a whole new Pandora’s box by alleging Imran’s “drug habit”.

This coming from a person whose sole claim to fame, as is Maryam’s, is being born into an incredibly evil, wicked and corrupt family, who have looted and plundered Pakistan with abandon!

Be warned that some really ugly allegations on their characters are sure to follow. Sad! Very sad!

But back to JKT!

What piqued my interest was a recent discernible and positive change in the quality of Imran’s decisions who, appearing fairly rudderless a few months ago, seems to be much more confident and in control and taking better decisions!

Why?

In my opinion, other than Imran finally getting a serious handle over governance, overcoming his near existential inexperience, ignorance and incompetence, coming out of the lowest point in his first year, perhaps his worst, the lowest point being Asad Umar’s sacking, and then the slow upward swing with the new economic team, the passing of the budget, the IMF loan, Rana Narcos, AZ in the dock, a successful amnesty scheme, it was JKT’s return back into the active inner sanctums of Imran’s decision making circle, which has a lot to do with Imran’s coming of age, say the “church mice!”

It appears that JKT may have taken over the role of a de facto Chief of Staff to Imran.

Jahangir Khan Tareen
Photo Credit: Business Recorder

A role Imran desperately needed to fend off the bunch of incompetent qaseeda khawaans and lotus eaters surrounding him, help him vet data, information and offer well thought through and objective advice on key policies and decisions.

In my opinion, despite what his detractors may say JKT seems most suited for this role.

A role, critical to Imran’s success, as I’ve stated countless times before. The Chief of Staff role requires someone who has a brilliant understanding, insights and experience of project planning and implementation in public sector and political environments. Someone who is also a technocrat and subject matter expert in a critical area, as well as a hard nosed, hard core political animal who understands the vicious cut and thrust of politics.

Someone who Is highly experienced in public sector governance and the ways of the bureaucracy. Someone who is financially independent and wealthy. But above all someone who is utterly and fiercely loyal to Imran, has his ear, professional respect and confidence. Today, who better than JKT? Its that simple!

Let’s face it. The reality is that JKT is now disqualified for life, and hence has no subjective agenda to push through, other than Imran’s and PTI’s success. Which brings me to JKT’s disqualification!

This may seem like a plug for him, but the details of the case and the disqualification truly shocked me! In in the interest of full disclosure.

I barely know Jehangir Tareen. He is certainly not a friend or even a passing acquaintance. I have only met him once, briefly for 30 odd minutes, and that too, by chance.

We have exchanged the odd WhatsApp text. In fact I have oft held him responsible for many of the ills besetting PTI especially the internecine intra party strife etc. Also I’m neither a PTI member or an office bearer. In fact my recent comments and articles about Imran and PTI have been harshly critical of many of Imran’s decisions and actions, costing me dearly, including being declared persona non grata around Imran.

But JKT’s disqualification intrigued me!

How could someone as smart and brilliant as JKT, with the best legal and professional advice available to him, be so incredibly stupid to put his entire political career at risk by “hiding” or “not disclosing an asset” bought through an off shore inheritance trust set up by him for his children, in which he, his wife and children were also beneficiaries?

How?

So I decided to dig deeper and pored over the case, the judgement, petitions, the English and Jersey law governing these trusts, plus seeking advice from those who know.

In this I did approach him seeking details of the case, which he kindly provided!

What I discovered was to say the least, surprising and very disturbing.

For context, I regularly read Barrister Babar Sattar’s columns, often disagreeing with his political perspectives, but admiring his legal ones.

His basic contention in many of his articles has been that our Superior Court Lordships have penned judgements, based not on past precedences or solid legal grounds, but in a fairly cavalier manner, perhaps based on personal whims, egos, and or political expediency.

Could petty jealousy, political conspiracies or personal vendetta be causes as well? I don’t know!

Time and again we see benches authoring completely conflicting judgement on cases which are very similar.

And we saw a lot of this during the Ch. Iftikhar and Saqib Nisar reigns.

Yes I call them reigns, because both lorded over their functions like arrogant, despotic and frequently irrational dictators, throwing judicial functioning in complete disarray, through their contradictory judgments and behaviours unbecoming of a Chief Justice!.

In my opinion, JKT’s case was also a sad reflection of the above.

So what was JKT’s case?

Hanif Abb
Photo Credit: DAWN

Hanif Abbasi, himself now a convicted drug smuggler, filed a petition to disqualify JKT on four grounds.

Insider Trading – Not Guilty.
Misdeclaration of Agricultural income tax – Not Guilty.
Written off loans – Not Guilty.
The Kicker – Property in UK – Guilty

As I stated eatlier I pored over the case and here have attempted to provide a simple overview without getting too much into the mumbo jumbo of the law.

1. JKT earned money in Pakistan legally, and paid the requisite taxes on it.

2. He then transferred a portion of these legally earned, tax paid funds. through official and legal banking channels, to his bank accounts in the UK and onwards into an offshore inheritance trust in the UK as an investment for his children. So there was no intent to “hide” money or “sources” from where money was made. All transfers were through legal banking channels and certified financial instruments.

3. The irrevocable inheritance Trust so created, meaning that JKT could not undo it, then incorporated a company, Shiny View Limited which bought the asset, Hyde House, held in trust by EFG Trust Company Limited. These are absolute standard ways to create trusts, especially for one’s children’s inheritance purposes.

4. Under Laws governing such Trusts, JKT’s role was that of a “Settlor” meaning the guy who “deposits / settles” the funds in the Trust. Absolutely correct, JKT paid the money to form the inheritance trust and acquire the property, for his children.

5. The beneficiaries of the funds in the Trust or any assets it may acquire were his 4 Children and so named in all documentation.

6. All his children regularly, every year, declared their ownership of this “asset”, Hyde House, in their regular tax returns to FBR well before the 2015 nomination papers filed by JKT. This again showed that there was never any attempt by JKT to “hide” the asset” as it always appeared in the tax returns of his children.

7. He and his wife were also named discretionary lifetime beneficiaries of the Trust to preclude the children from dissolving the trust and selling off the assets, in his or her lifetime. But could do so after their demise. This is a fairly standard clause in most inheritance trusts.

Now here’s the tricky legal part. Please read 8 and 9 slowly, preferably twice.

8. JKT set up an irrevocable discretionary inheritance Trust under which complete legal and beneficial ownership of assets of the Trust vested in certified professional Trustees who were trusted to ensure that any funds / assets vested in the trust would be given to JKT’s children, as per the terms of the Trust, after his and his wife’s demise.

9. Unless there is actual transfer of any asset to any discretionary lifetime beneficiary, in this case JKT or his wife, such discretionary beneficiary has a mere expectation and no proprietary interest in the assets held by such Trust. There is decades of unbroken English and Jersey law on this.

In simple words, the asset, Hyde House, belonged to the inheritance Trust, with his children as prime beneficiaries and the asset did not belong to JKT or his wife, under the laws governing such trusts. This is fairly common in Pakistan Trust law as well.

His lawyers advised that because his children already declare Hyde House as their asset in their tax returns in Pakistan, he was not required to do this.

Stupid advice? Perhaps.

Bottom line.

Nothing in the transaction showed any intent to “hide sources of money” “money trails” or “the asset”.

Everything was done through legally earned, tax paid funds, transferred through legal banking channels (not on the backs of Camels) and publicly reported in tax returns by his children who were the beneficiaries of the trust.

So now to the judicial case.

A three judge bench comprising, Chief Justice Saqib, Justices Ata Bandial and Faisal Arab, disqualified JKT by first rejecting that a valid trust was created, which owned the property, Hyde House, calling it a sham front!

Once they did that, they then proceeded to link the property directly to JKT because he was “discretionary lifetime beneficiary” of the trust, by his own admission. The same Trust the Lordships called a sham!!

And then the coup de grace!

And therefore because he had not disclosed his being a beneficiary in this property in his nomination papers, hence under Article 62(1) (f) was declared dishonest and unfit to hold public office under section 99 (1) (f) of the Representation of People Act, 1976.

This is really strange reading.

They reject the Trust as a valid asset holding entity, but accept his being a “lifetime discretionary beneficiary” in the same Trust they say does not exist or was a sham and use this to convict him!

Unbelievable Logic!

Adding further salt to this “remarkable” judgement is the following observation by the learned Judges, perhaps their most damning comment in the judgement which gives away an intent to pronounce a guilty judgement, whatever the facts may be

“…….. Perhaps SVL was created as a repository to hide his tax paid money, sent through banking channels and shown to have been spent on the creation of SVL and the purchase/construction – of the “Hyde House”; but this was done in a clandestine and dubious manner. The object behind this exercise was to hide and stash the said money, SVL and the property from the tax authorities and from the public eyes…..

Stupid Question from me!

Which “brilliant” mind or minds would draw this conclusion or observe that someone would be so stupid as to “HIDE their LEGAL TAX PAID MONEY sent THROUGH LEGAL BANKING CHANNELS”, for the purpose of HIDING these legal tax paid funds FROM TAX AUTHORITIES and then dub these actions as “dubious and clandestine” ?

Speechless! Just speechless.

Bottom line!

Nothing in the transaction showed any intent to “hide sources of money” “disguise money trails” or “hide the asset”.

And to repeat myself again!

Everything was done through legally earned, tax paid funds, transferred through legal banking channels (not on the backs of Camels) and publicly reported in tax returns by his children who were the beneficiaries of the trust.

The Bench did not pay any heed to the fact that he had not displayed any deliberate intent to hide the asset or was deliberately committing a dishonest act.

They paid no heed to the fact that the money was legally earned, tax paid, officially transferred through banking channels and regularly declared in the tax returns of JKT’s children!

I then looked at Khawaja Asif’s case, seemingly an open an shut case of clear guilt, or so it would seem, because he was held “NOT GUILTY” for not declaring an asset in his nomination forms, virtually an identical case under which his party leader, Nawaz Sharif was declared GUILTY for not declaring his salary as an asset he received from his employers as a permanent resident of the UAE.

The Honorable bench in that case comprised Justices Faisal Arab, Umar Bandial (yes the same two who disqualified JKT) and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

This judgement, unlike JKT’s, waxes eloquently about “intent” about “clarifying source of income” about “omissions being a case of poor judgement but not of wilful dishonesty”

These phrases are worthy of current Chief Justice Asif Khosa’s judgments.

A man with as strong a spine and as worthy a rare mettle one has seen in the Superior Judiciary. Sadly one cannot say the same for some others.

Khawaja Asif’s case with Nawaz Sharif’s case as a binding precedent, should really have been an open an shut case but for reasons that must be investigated, Justices Ata Bandial, Faisal Arab and Sajjad Ali Shah adopted a very different approach.

In Khawaja Asif’s case Judgement, we come across such beauties!

…..There are many conceivable instances where an omission to declare an asset on the face of it cannot be regarded as dishonest concealment. … Such like omissions at best could be categorized as bad judgment or negligence but certainly not dishonesty… Hence mere omission to list an asset cannot be labelled as dishonesty unless some wrongdoing is associated with its acquisition or retention which is duly established in judicial proceedings. In our view attributing dishonesty to every omission to disclose an asset and disqualify a member for life could never have been the intention of the parliament while incorporating Article 62(1)(f) in the Constitution. All non-disclosures of assets cannot be looked at with the same eye….

Yet in JKT’s case, this principle was not applied.

In their wisdom, they then go on to say…

……Where a matter with regard to an undisclosed asset is taken to court, it would not form the opinion that it is a case of dishonest concealment without first calling upon the elected member to explain the source from which such an asset was acquired…..

And when the source was explained by JKT their laughable response is what was shared earlier.

They then go on to say…..

……It is the credibility of the explanation that would be the determining factor as to whether non-disclosure of an asset carries with it the element of dishonesty or not. The test of honesty with regard to non-disclosure of assets and liabilities is to be applied in that context only and certainly not in a case where a clean asset has not been declared on account of bad judgment or inadvertent omission…..

In JKT’s case non-disclosure of the asset clearly carries with it the element of open transparency and honesty

And thus Khawaja Asif was declared NOT GUILTY because the Honourable Bench determined that it was “inadvertent omission without ill intent”!

Masha Allah! Subhan Allah!

Don’t know how many others have suffered such a travesty of justice. It is shocking, senseless, saddening and appalling.

Over to you, Chief Justice Asif Khosa. I hope you get to read this.

I say this because you’re an honourable man out to reform this rotten system which results in such gross miscarriages of Justice.

I say this so such a travesty is not committed again and past wrongs, set right.

To begin with a Supreme Court review appeal MUST NOT be heard by the same bench which passed the original judgement, but by a different bench so it receives fair and objective treatment.

It is not possible to expect the same bench to review its own judgment, overturn it and bring into question their own competence.

JKT should not have been punished in this case. Because he hid nothing, earned money legally, transferred them through official channels, and his children declared their ownership in their tax returns.

His case must be reopened under a new bench and his review petition heard again.

Many will conjecture on why I wrote this piece.

Some will allege that “JKT bought me”.

For them in the words of Rhett Butler/ Clark Gable in “Gone with The Wind “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

As I stated earlier, JKT, despite the controversies surrounding him, is on the balance a very positive influence on Imran, helping him take good decisions and govern well and effectively!

And that is good for Pakistan, as Imran is still our best fighting chance!

Plus I’ve always had a soft corner for the underdog and those who have suffered grave injustice. Including people like Hamid Khan, who I greatly admire and respect.

I hope JKT reconciles with him, Saif Niazi, Shah Mahmood, Ch. Sarwar and others and distances himself from the likes of Fawad Chaudhry!

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