Funding controversy

Updated November 23, 2019

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OF all the problems the PTI has faced since its leader Imran Khan decided to turn it into a mainstream outfit, matching blow for blow, the foreign funding case has perhaps given it the most trouble. And now, as Prime Minister Khan asks the Election Commission of Pakistan that the PTI’s case be heard at the same time as the foreign funding cases against the PML-N and PPP, he is, in effect, comparing his party with those he once deemed too corrupt to be spoken of in the same breath as the PTI.

In that sense, a sobering climbdown has taken place as the ECP prepares to hear the case on a daily basis from Nov 26. The decision on the nonstop hearing comes at the request of the opposition parties that are keen for a verdict during the tenure of the current chief election commissioner, which ends next month.

The opposition parties believe that the decision would pull the rug from under the PTI edifice. Not that the outcome can be predicted as a PTI petition is pending before the Islamabad High Court, but many, including a former senior ECP official, have claimed that an adverse verdict could have serious repercussions for the PTI, including the disqualification of all the lawmakers and even local government representatives of a party ruled as guilty.

The case has taken too long. The matter was first brought for adjudication by PTI dissident Akbar S. Babar in 2014. He had alleged that the illegal transfer of millions of dollars to accounts belonging to those working with the PTI had taken place.

The proceedings of the case have been slow, with the PTI moving the court with various pleas related to the legal points raised by Mr Babar. Before this bracketing of the PTI case with probes against the PPP and PML-N, at one point the PTI wanted the ECP investigation into its funding to be kept secret.

The legal battle aside, the manner in which the PTI has been acting makes very little political sense. Only the other day, Prime Minister Imran Khan made a statement about how the PTI had nothing to fear in this instance since an audit had proved it had done nothing wrong.

Mr Khan’s party and government colleagues could try to reflect their leader’s confidence in their public responses to this long-running funding controversy. But first, the PTI as a reformist party must prove that it has nothing to hide.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2019