ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday told the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to submit required documents relating to its foreign funding or face consequences.
A full bench of the ECP headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sardar Mohammad Raza, which had taken up the case involving alleged collection of funds from illegal sources, asked the PTI to produce all financial instruments sought by the petitioner ‘‘without fail’’ and ‘‘much before’’ the next hearing set for Jan 16. It warned that ‘‘all legal inferences’’ would be drawn in case of failure.
The CEC held the PTI responsible for delays in proceeding with the case. He said PTI was solely responsible for the undue and unwarranted “delays which are not helping the PTI but is hurting it”.
“Do you realise this?” he asked the PTI lawyer.
The CEC stated that he had been allowing delays to scrutinise PTI accounts despite no written ‘stay order’ of the Islamabad High Court. He said the ECP lawyer was never authorised to give any verbal commitment to the IHC to suspend scrutiny of PTI accounts. The CEC disclosed that the ECP had recently initiated scrutiny of accounts of all major political parties under a separate ‘political funding section’ recently formed for the purpose.
Another member of the ECP bench told the PTI lawyer: “So we should also suspend scrutiny of other parties audit reports as the PTI had demanded suspension of PTI accounts scrutiny in the IHC.”
Hinting at what he called PTI double standards, the member remarked that the “PTI should be consistent in its stance; in one case with similar matter it claims ECP jurisdiction while in another case it questions ECP jurisdiction”.
The case was filed in November 2014 by a founding member of the PTI and the former central vice president of the party, Akbar S. Babar, who alleged massive violation of relevant laws and corruption in collection and utilisation of party funds.
The case has been in limbo in the ECP after the PTI filed in the IHC a writ petition seeking a ‘stay order’ against any further scrutiny of its accounts by the ECP.
During Thursday’s proceedings, the petitioner’s lawyer, Syed Ahmed Hasan, informed the ECP that the writ petition seeking stay against scrutiny of PTI accounts could not be heard on Wednesday because the senior PTI lawyer had again failed to appear before the IHC. He said there was a consistent pattern of PTI excuses leading to delays.
He said an application for production of documents had not been responded by the PTI despite ECP orders over the past one year. He said that while the case was proceeding, the PTI continued to seek and collect funds from illegal sources as recently divulged when it advertised a UK Lloyds Bank account for collecting donations which had not been disclosed to the ECP.
Talking to reporters after the hearing, Mr Babar cited the case as a major achievement of the ‘foreign funding case’ that acted as a catalyst to initiate institutionalised scrutiny of parties’ accounts which would go down as a major step towards regulating political parties under the law.
He said the documents sought by the ECP included registration and transfer of funds documents of two offshore limited liability companies, or PTI USA LLCs 5975 and 6,160, registered under the signatures of Imran Khan in the United States to collect over $3 million illegal foreign funds.
He said the ECP production order included bank statements of PTI accounts not disclosed to the ECP in their annual audit reports and identified by the petitioner (Mr Babar); bank statements of accounts held by PTI employees which were allegedly used as a cover to receive illegal foreign funding to the tune of billion of rupees received through ‘hundi’ and eventually siphoned off without any record.
Mr Babar, who is campaigning for transparency in the party accounts which led to his differences with PTI chairman Imran Khan, said that the ECP had ordered the PTI to produce ‘evidence’ regarding the Lloyds Bank Account allegedly used to collect donations internationally to fund the PTI’s plan for the ‘lockdown of Islamabad’ on Nov 2. The account has not been disclosed in the PTI audit reports submitted to the ECP.
Mr Babar said Mr Khan and the PTI could no longer escape from the course of justice on silly excuses because now they would have to either produce the documentary evidence sought by the ECP or face legal consequences for not complying with the ECP order.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2016