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ISLAMABAD: After questioning for about three years the jurisdiction of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to scrutinise its accounts, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has approached the commission to seek detailed scrutiny of funding record of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for years 2013-2015.

In two separate ‘complaints’ filed with the ECP, Farrukh Habib, a central leader of the PTI, has accused the PML-N and the PPP of concealing their sources of funds and companies registered by them in the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively, and sought cancellation of election symbols allocated to them “for their failure to meet legal requirements for eligibility to obtain the symbols”.

The complaint against the PML-N says that the party in its accounts has relied on audit by non-Quality Control Review-rated firms, which have adopted wrong reporting format. In all divisions, no sources of funds have been declared, the accounts are contradictory, do not comply with the mandatory requirements of the Political Parties Order (PPO) or Political Parties Rules (PPR) and exhibit violation of Article 6 and 13 of the PPO read with Rule 4 and 6 of the PPR.

“The respondent political party may be generating money from prohibited sources but since they have consciously failed to provide any information it is clear that the respondent political party is attempting to conceal where the money is being generated from,” the complaint reads.

Two parties accused of concealing sources of funds and companies registered by them in UK and US

It says that the PML-N receives funds from “other revenue” but fails to disclose what these other revenues are and how this other revenue can raise such exorbitant fund. “This revenue could be coming from a foreign company or foreign government or from a multinational but no disclosure is being made clearly in order to conceal this information so that nobody can question the person or organisation which is sending these funds”.

The complaint stresses that the reason and rationale behind the declaration of sources of party funds is to ensure that no funds are being collected from any prohibited source. It gives the federal government an opportunity to scrutinise whether a party is being operated as a foreign-aided political party as defined under Article 2(c) of the PPO.

Referring to reports that Rs1.30 billion was spent by the PML-N on their election campaign in 2013, the complaint says: “None of this amount or even part of this amount is explained as to how it was generated and what the source of funds was”.

It alleges that the PML-N runs a private limited company in the UK, which has not been disclosed in the documents submitted to the ECP. “This is a foreign incorporated company which is registered under the Registrar of Companies for England and Wales. What is more alarming is that under the Objective Clause, this company has power to carry on any trade or business and to enter into any arrangement with any government or authority that (it may seem conducive to the attainment of the company object(ive) or any of them and to obtain from any such government or authority any charter, decrees, rights, privileges or concession which the company may think desirable and to carry out exercise and comply with any such charter, decrees, rights, privileges and concessions,” it reads.

The complainant says information regarding the company funds should also be sought by the ECP to scrutinise whether the company is providing or collecting any money, which is prohibited under the PPO. The UK-based company is a sheer violation of the PPO and non-disclosure of the same exhibits mala fide concealment and that it has been formed for ulterior motives.

A true copy of the Certificate of Incorporation of the PML-N (UK) and the Memorandum and the Articles of the Association of PML(N) (UK) have been attached with the complaint.

It alleges that the PML-N had been used for money laundering. It says that the party in 2013 received Rs100 million donation from erstwhile prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and later Rs45m was remitted back in the personal account of Mr Sharif. It points out that the transaction had not been disclosed before the ECP.

The complaint against the PPP says that the account statements of the party between 2009 and 2012 are not available either due to non-filing or for reasons best known to the party. The accounts of 2013 started with an opening balance of Rs 41.47m from the previous years, however, where that opening balance was generated from is undisclosed.

“Therefore,” it says, “no source of opening funds in the accounts of the year 2013 has been disclosed, thus it was upon this August Commission to have asked for it under Rule 10 of the PPR, which was not done and were therefore not looked into.”

The complaint says that as per the requirement of Article 13 the PPO and Rule 4 of the PPR, no certificate by the party leader had been submitted stating that no funds from any prohibited source are received and that the statement contains accurate financial position of the party.

The certificate has been signed by the secretary general of the PPP instead of its leader.

The ECP ignored for reasons best known to them that the same is required to be signed by the party head, and this in fact this is a mandatory requirement of the PPO, the complaint says.

As per the audited accounts, it says, the expenses of the PPP-P led by Asif Zardari were of Rs 2.56m, Rs3.644m and Rs3.55m in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.

However, as per the audited accounts these expenses were borne by the PPP headed Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. “This is a clear and blatant violation of Article 6(3) of the PPO whereby the political party can only receive contribution from an individual and not from another political party”.

The complaint says that the PPP has a company registered under US laws namely PPP LLC, which in fact is a company created to collect funds for the party. As per the details of the PPP LLC, funds have been collected from foreign nationals and the government of Pakistan in large amounts. “This is against the spirit of the PPO as contributions from foreigners or the Government of Pakistan, are prohibited under the PPO. Furthermore, the PPP has failed to disclose the existence of this LLC established in USA”.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2017