December 15, 2017 / 12:35 PM / a year ago

Pakistani top court rejects bid to bar opposition leader Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Supreme Court cleared opposition leader Imran Khan on Friday of accusations of failing to declare assets, but barred his party’s secretary general from parliament.

Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, gestures as he addresses members of the media, after Pakistan's Supreme Court dismissed a petition to disqualify him from parliament for not declaring assets, outside Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

The top court dismissed a petition to disqualify the cricket hero as an MP, months after his rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was removed from parliament by the court on similar charges.

“No dishonesty or omission can be attributed to (Khan). This petition has no merits and is hereby dismissed,” Chief Justice Saqib Nisar told the court.

The ruling on Khan was hailed as a vindication by his opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which will face off against Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in elections next year.

Khan had led the legal drive that led to Sharif being disqualified in July over unreported income and the opening of a criminal corruption case against the former prime minister.

A lawmaker from Sharif’s ruling party filed a separate complaint late last year alleging Khan and PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen owned offshore companies and had not disclosed their assets.

The Supreme Court disqualified Tareen. “The respondent is declared not to be an honest person. He ceased to be member of the parliament. The respondent is disqualified,” Nisar said of Tareen.

PTI spokesman Naeem Ul Haq said the party was disappointed with that judgement. Tareen himself was not immediately available for comment.

“I gave 60 documents to the Supreme Court ... Nawaz Sharif, took 300 billion rupees out of this country which he has to answer for ... and for that he produced only one document,” Khan said at a press briefing after the verdict was announced.

A senior PML-N leader, Miftah Ismial, told Reuters the party questioned details of the court’s ruling, but accepted it as final.

Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Nick Macfie and Andrew Heavens

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