Chief Election Commissioner denies holding secret meetings with president

Updated 07 Jul 2020

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CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja says he will resign if the claim is proven. — DawnNewsTV/File
CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja says he will resign if the claim is proven. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja has rejected as baseless the accusation of holding secret meetings at night with President Dr Arif Alvi.

Talking to Dawn on Monday, he challenged a prominent anchor, who made the claim, to substantiate it and declared that he would resign if it was proven.

The anchor in a tweet alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan had tasked President Dr Arif Alvi with managing the CEC and the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

He claimed that the CEC was often seen at the Presidency where he held secret meetings with the president. “It appears the new CEC will break the records of Sardar Muhammad Raza,” he tweeted.

Says he will resign if the claim is proven

Mr Raja, while rejecting the allegation as totally baseless, said he had neither ever met PM Khan nor received any message from him.

Likewise, he said, he had never received any message or advice from President Alvi. “I am not in the habit of taking such advice,” he remarked.

“I don’t have any contact either through messaging or through any indirect channel or through personal contact with the president. I met the president only once in my life and that was a formal call for a few minutes.”

He said Dr Alvi was constitutional head of the state and there was no need for him to hold a clandestine meeting with him.

The most prominent case before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) foreign funding pending since November 2014.

If the verdict in the case goes against the PTI, Dr Alvi will be held accountable as the party’s former secretary general along with chairman Imran Khan.

The petitioner in the foreign funding case against the PTI, Akbar S. Babar, while talking to Dawn, said that if it was true the news of alleged secret meetings between President Alvi and the CEC was alarming and disturbing.

He said the PTI had tried every trick in the book and beyond to delay the case which was a documented fact to the extent that the ECP in its order dated Oct 10, 2019 declared the PTI guilty of historic abuse of the process of law to delay the case.

“It is time for investigations to conclude in earnest for the ECP to announce a verdict without further delay in the supreme national interest,” he said.

The ECP has so far held over 70 hearings in the case.

On more than 30 occasions, the PTI sought written or oral adjournment on various pretexts, including unavailability of counsel or the pendency of the case before courts.

Six applications on similar grounds objecting to the maintainability and jurisdiction of the ECP to scrutinise the accounts of the PTI have been filed. There are at least 21 orders of the ECP directing the PTI to file pertinent documents/record and documenting the failure and non-compliance by the PTI.

While a scrutiny committee continues to deliberate without any end in sight, serious questions have come to the surface about the PTI’s pressure to remove a credible auditor from the scrutiny committee and replace him with a pliant one to make it toothless.

Since the induction of the new CEC, only two ECP hearings have been conducted. The last hearing was conducted on June 2 during which the ECP director general law and the scrutiny committee’s head — who were appointed in March 2018 to conduct an audit of the PTI foreign funding — were directed to submit a progress or status report within a week and an interim findings report by June 30.

However, the ECP postponed the next hearing scheduled for June 30 indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The next meeting of the scrutiny committee is scheduled for July 8.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2020