The chief election commissioner (CEC) lashed out at Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) when the party's senior lawyer Anwar Mansoor and finance secretary failed to appear for a hearing of on the party's source of funds on Tuesday.
The court expressed anger at PTI junior lawyer's request that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) hear the party's arguments "calmly", saying that the party had been employing delaying tactics regarding the matter for over three years.
"You are telling us to listen to you calmly when the case is being delayed due to your party's constant failure to appear before the bench," the CEC said.
Petitioner Akbar S. Babar ─ one of the founding members of PTI ─ complained to the ECP bench that whenever the body demands an answer from the PTI, the party fails to respond. He blamed the party for delaying the case for more than three years.
The bench regretted that both parties kept bringing up political issues instead of presenting legal arguments.
The case was filed on Nov 14, 2014 by the estranged Babar, after he developed differences with PTI chief Imran Khan over internal corruption and abuse of laws governing political funding.
The petitioner has alleged that nearly $3 million in illegal foreign funds were collected through two offshore companies, registered under Imran Khan’s signature, and that money was sent through illegal ‘hundi’ channels from the Middle East to accounts of PTI employees. He also alleged that the foreign accounts used to collect funds were concealed from the annual audit reports submitted to the ECP.
On April 1, 2015, after scrutinising PTI’s annual audit reports, the ECP ordered that the party had failed to disclose the sources and details of foreign funds received. But instead of submitting the accounts, PTI had challenged the ECP’s jurisdiction to scrutinise its accounts.
On Oct 8, 2015 a five-member bench of the ECP had passed a detailed order saying that only the ECP was the right constitutional forum to scrutinise accounts of political parties, without any time bar.
On Nov 26, 2015, the PTI had challenged the ECP order before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), which finally remanded the case back to the ECP on Feb 15 this year to review its jurisdiction and locus standi of the petitioner.
On May 8 this year, a full bench of the ECP had once again asserted its jurisdiction in the case and declared that there ‘is not an iota of evidence’ to challenge Babar’s membership of PTI and hence his constitutional right to challenge PTI accounts.
During the hearing today, the PTI lawyer argued that since the high court has not yet issued a verdict on whether the case falls under the ECP's jurisdiction, the case should be adjourned until the IHC's next hearing, which is to be held on January 15.
Babar told the ECP that the high court had refused to listen to his lawyer until the election body submitted an response in this regard. He requested the ECP to continue hearing the case until the high court issued a written order.
In a previous hearing of the case, the ECP had ordered PTI's finance secretary to appear before the body to answer queries about the purported financial evidence submitted by the party to the commission.
The ECP once again ordered the finance secretary of the party to appear before the court in the next proceeding before adjourning the case until January 16, 2018.