ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday approached the Supreme Court against the Islamabad High Court’s decision to uphold the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declaration that Akbar S. Babar is still a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The appeal was filed just a day after the PTI founding but dissident member sought an early hearing of his application by the ECP regarding the party’s alleged foreign funding. Mr Babar accused the PTI leadership of persecuting him by employing covert, overt, and frivolous legal means and demanded protection against the alleged threats and harassment.

Filed on behalf of PTI chairman Imran Khan by Barrister Umaimah Anwar Khan, the appeal pleaded before the SC that the IHC decision came without defining the ambit and power of the ECP rather the high court had allegedly indulged in fact finding.

Mr Khan through his petition challenged the Dec 4, 2019 order of the IHC that upheld the ECP declaration. He alleged that the ECP acted as a court of law or a tribunal and travelled beyond the scope of prayer rather extended its jurisdiction in matters of factual controversy, in contravention of the settled law. Thus, by assuming the jurisdiction, the ECP gave declaration in violation of law and therefore liable to be set aside being illegal, void ab initio and coram non judice, the petition argued.

The petitioner questioned if the ECP could treat any information received by it under Order 6(3) and (4) of the Political Parties Order 2002 (PPO) as adversarial form of complaint.

Party’s foreign funding controversy deepens as Imran questions ECP declaration on dissident

He regretted that the IHC failed to consider the law clearly laid down by the SC in the 2017 Hanif Abbasi case that information by the third party pertaining to the accounts of a political party could only be entertained subject to the condition that the information emanated from a credible and reliable source, which could be verifiable. He further argued that the IHC failed to acknowledge that the proceedings under Order 6 of the PPO were not a dispute resolution between two parties but in fact an inquisitorial proceedings.

The petitioner alleged that the high court ignored the question regarding ECP’s jurisdiction and whether it had exceeded in exercising its jurisdiction in case of Mr Babar’s membership status.

He argued that the PTI membership of Mr Babar had been cancelled permanently in accordance with law and he himself had shown antagonism in his clear declaration of parting ways with the party. The petitioner wondered how in this situation the ECP while sitting as an inquisitorial body for determining the question of the funding of a political party could declare Mr Babar as PTI member.

The petitioner questioned if it was not the duty of the IHC to determine first the ambit, power as well as the jurisdiction of the commission so that the ECP did not exercise powers beyond its jurisdiction and violate fundamental rights.

According to the petition, Mr Babar in his complaint, which has been pending before a delegated scrutiny committee of the ECP, had alleged that the PTI had received prohibited funding.

Since 1996, the petitioner said, Mr Babar had been a PTI member but he withdrew his membership in 2011 and he was removed from the party membership through a Sept 26, 2011 letter issued by the then party’s secretary general.

The petitioner argued that the single bench decision was challenged before a division bench of the high court, but the intra court appeal was also disposed of in a hurried manner on Dec 12, 2019 without considering the question of jurisdiction and other facts. The petitioner emphasised that the ECP acted in excess of power without statutory competence and that its March 12, 2018 order was violative of earlier decisions of the SC.

He argued that the ECP was acting in violation of Article 175 of the Constitution by assuming jurisdiction of a court that was not established by the law.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Babar had filed another application with the ECP seeking early decision on his complaint regarding party’s foreign funding case.

In his application, filed through attorney Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah, Mr Babar accused PTI leadership of persecuting him by employing covert, overt, and frivolous legal means and sought protection against the threats and harassment by the ruling party.

The applicant accused the PTI of implementing a well-conceived “strategy to silence and gag” him and force him to withdraw the foreign funding case by subjecting him to “unending and frivolous litigations” while repeatedly subjecting him to overt as well as veiled threats, thus, endangering his life and liberty. One such incident had already been reported to the interior secretary vide his letter dated November 21, 2014, the applicant recalled.

Mr Babar alleged that he was being persecuted by the PTI for filing the foreign funding case that was solely intended for “policy course correction to keep the party in line with its founding principles and ideals and to make it a transparent and accountable organization according to law and serve as a nursery of credible leadership”.

He said the ECP’s delay in settling the foreign funding case had allowed the PTI to employ pressure tactics such as “frivolous litigations, threats, and on occasions lucrative offers”, to force him to withdraw the case.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2020