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Apr 26, 8:31 AM EDT

Pakistani court rules to remove FM for hiding assets

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ISLAMABAD (AP) -- A Pakistani court Thursday disqualified the country's foreign minister from holding office after a petition from a rival politician sought his removal for concealing assets abroad.

The Islamabad High Court announced the much-awaited decision regarding Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif in the capital, Islamabad. Asif said shortly after the order that he would appeal the decision to Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Usman Dar, a member of popular politician Imran Khan's opposition Taherik-e-Insaf party, had been waging a legal battle in recent years to disqualify Asif for concealing his assets from tax authorities.

Dar praised the judges shortly after the ruling. "I am grateful to the judiciary for doing justice," he told reporters.

Under a controversial Pakistani law introduced by former dictator Ziaul Haq, no dishonest person can be a member of parliament. Haq in the 1980s came up with the law apparently to prevent opponents from obtaining seats in parliament, but after his death in a plane crash in 1988, no civilian ruler has reversed it.

Asif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League party has been facing a crisis since July when the Supreme Court found former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif guilty on corruption charges stemming from leaked documents known as the Panama Papers.

Asif will not be able to take part in this year's election if his appeal is rejected.

Khan's party was defeated in 2013 elections and the former cricket player has spoken of his aspirations of becoming Pakistan's next prime minister following parliamentary elections, scheduled for July this year.

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