ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) team on Wednesday walked out of a meeting of the scrutiny committee as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) raised an objection in its order over Deputy Attorney General Saqlain Haider representing the PTI as its lead lawyer in the foreign funding case.
It was the scrutiny committee’s second meeting after rejection of the PTI’s objections by the ECP in its Oct 10 order to the scrutiny process.
The commission had directed the petitioner and the PTI to appear before the scrutiny committee on Oct 14 and complete the scrutiny process as early as possible.
But on Oct 14 the PTI sought another adjournment saying its finance team had gone abroad.
Sources said on Wednesday that the PTI lawyers objected to the Oct 10 order, which was shared with the committee for the first time, over rejection of its objections to the scrutiny process
The ECP in its detailed order available with Dawn has questioned the merit of lawyer Saqlain Haider representing the PTI despite being appointed as deputy attorney general.
Commission questions merit of lawyer representing the party
The order states: “Saqlain Haider, learned counsel for the respondent who is stated to have been appointed as Deputy Attorney General, had no right to appear for political party against the interest of the state.”
It further states that the PTI lawyer “should rather protect the state and not the party which are two completely different entities” and that “the learned counsel should have preferred the state over the interests of a political party after his present appointment as Deputy Attorney General”.
The order states that the “commission is confronted with an unprecedented phenomena of delay caused by the respondent exploiting the presence or existence of the complainant”.
On PTI’s demand to exclude the petitioner and its founding member Akbar S. Babar from the scrutiny process, the order states: “The request for exclusion of the complainant from the scrutiny was not justified because the latter had to provide material evidence to the committee.”
The ECP order terms the PTI demand to exclude the petitioner from the scrutiny of its 23 bank accounts which were revealed on the instructions of the State Bank of Pakistan “frivolous as usual because such accounts came to knowledge only because of the complaint of the petitioner. Such accounts rather support the complainant so as those are not accounted for”.
The ECP terms “interesting” the PTI demand from the committee to share details of its accounts and “on this frivolous excuse the matter was delayed for considerable time as usual”.
When contacted, PTI’s Finance Secretary Azhar Tariq said if the lead lawyer excluded himself from the proceedings, there was no use of going to the scrutiny committee till a new lead counsel was appointed.
He, however, said the PTI was not boycotting the proceedings. “We will proceed and provide everything that is required. We want this matter to reach its logical conclusion.”
Mr Tariq said during the last hearing the PTI was asked to submit para-wise comments, which it submitted on Wednesday.
He said the PTI had to seek details of its accounts from the banks because the ECP did not share them which it had directly received from the banks.
He said more than 95 per cent information had been received which had also been submitted to the ECP. He said letters have again been written to the banks to get the missing information and copies of these letters have also been provided to the scrutiny committee.
“The fake accounts drama now stands exposed,” he remarked and said 4 or 5 accounts mentioned in the reports received to the ECP from the banks did not belong to the PTI. He said Akbar S Babar was a signatory of two of the bank accounts which he had been terming to be fake.
The PTI leader said the ECP was neither a court nor a tribunal. He said the scrutiny committee was conducting proceedings as if it was a court and only lawyers were allowed to speak.
He said his party’s financial adviser, who is a highly qualified chartered accountant, had once been asked to get out by the ECP’s director general (law) who is heading the scrutiny panel after he pointed out that the proceedings should be done as per international accounting norms and standards.
When contacted, Akbar S. Babar refused to divulge details of the scrutiny committee proceedings. He said the case has assumed national importance as serious questions about the financial impropriety or otherwise of the ruling party is at stake here.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2019