ISLAMABAD: Former federal minister Dr Babar Awan has withdrawn his name as counsel for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the foreign funding case, the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that has been mandated to audit PTI’s funding has been informed.
The committee that met here on Tuesday after a gap of three months to scrutinise PTI accounts, particularly in the light of all PTI bank statements requisitioned by the ECP from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) from 2009 to 2013, was told that the party would now be represented in the case by Saqlain Haider. This is the fourth replacement of PTI’s counsel since the case was first filed by a founding member of the PTI, Akbar S. Babar, in November 2014.
Interestingly, the new lawyer was the PTI’s lawyer in the case before he was replaced by Dr Awan a few months back.
The meeting was adjourned until Oct 19 without any progress as the new lawyer wanted more time and he came without a finance team of the PTI.
The scrutiny committee was formed on March 27 this year to scrutinise PTI foreign funding accounts in one month. The committee held its first meeting on April 3, but due to reported lack of cooperation by the PTI in submitting its accounts and bank statements, the time frame of the committee was extended by another two months to conclude on July 3 2018.
Despite the extension, the PTI continued to stall submission of its accounts, including bank statements sought by the committee for the period of 2009 to 2013. Between April and the end of June this year, the committee met on 19 occasions with little progress as the PTI continued to delay and stall proceedings by refusing to submit the accounts sought by the committee for scrutiny.
Finally, the ECP decided to request the SBP to produce the same under powers vested in it under the Constitution to seek documents. Accordingly, the SBP directed all scheduled banks of Pakistan to submit PTI’s accounts to ECP by July 16.
Since November 2014 when the case was first filed, the PTI has repeatedly challenged the jurisdiction of the ECP to scrutinise its accounts and challenged the party membership of the petitioner, Mr Babar. The ECP and, subsequently the Islamabad High Court (IHC), passed more than one judgements validating the ECP jurisdiction and the party membership of Mr Babar. The last PTI writ petition challenging the formation of the ECP scrutiny committee to audit its foreign funding and the party membership of Mr Babar was dismissed by a single bench of the IHC on July 24 this year.
All previous PTI’s attempts challenging the ECP jurisdiction and the party membership of Mr Babar had failed. Among the orders that rejected the PIT’s pleas were the ECP verdict of May 8, 2017 and IHC verdict of July 24, 2018.
Published in Dawn, October 3rd , 2018