ISLAMABAD: The scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) appears to be ignoring the commission’s directive for hearing the foreign funding case against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on a day-to-day basis as it adjourned the hearing to Dec 2.
The committee, headed by the ECP’s director general (law), held its 44th meeting on Thursday.
The ECP had last week directed the scrutiny committee to complete the fact finding of the foreign funding case ‘as soon as possible’ and hear the case on a daily basis.
As a consequence of the ECP directive, the committee met on Nov 26, but adjourned to Nov 28. Again, instead of hearing the case on a daily basis to complete fact finding and enable the ECP to make a final determination before retirement of the chief election commissioner expected on Dec 5, the committee adjourned to Dec 2.
Informed sources told Dawn that the counsel for the petitioner, Syed Ahmed Hassan Shah and Badar Iqbal Chaudhery, presented the evidence, which had been with the ECP since November 2014, about alleged PTI funding from illegal and prohibited sources. The evidence presented before the committee on Thursday was limited to the two Limited Liability Companies registered in the United States by the PTI with the signatures of party chairman and now Prime Minister Imran Khan.
PTI’s foreign funding case is bone of contention between ruling PTI and opposition parties
The PTI is accused of failing to disclose an amount exceeding $3 million from 2009 to 2013. The party had submitted to the Supreme Court a list of individuals who donated this money in the United States. A PTI office-bearer had acknowledged that the same list had also been shared with the ECP.
Sources said that the petitioner’s counsel during the proceedings claimed that the evidence presented by the PTI before the Supreme Court and the ECP regarding funding breakdown from the US was fake and fabricated.
Interestingly, the scrutiny committee did not make public the documents submitted by the respondents and has not shared them with the petitioner either. More interestingly, it refused to share with the PTI details of the undeclared accounts operated by the party that the committee had received directly from the banks on the directives of the State Bank of Pakistan and asked the PTI to seek the same from the banks.
The committee was briefed on the entire scope of violations of the Constitution and the relevant laws with regard to funding of political parties. The petitioner’s counsel are expected to continue presentation of evidence at the next hearing scheduled for Dec 2.
When contacted, the petitioner and PTI founding member refused to divulge any details of the committee meeting. He limited his comments to the long-drawn case and hoped that it would conclude before CEC retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza retires as the entire nation’s eyes are set on the case.
He said that all those hoping or attempting to delay the case one way or another are doing a great “disservice to the country”. He said that the Oct 10 verdict of the ECP holding the PTI responsible for “worst historical example of abuse of the process of law” for delaying the case would create political upheaval and force the head of the party to resign in any established democracy.
Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2019