ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is in the process of examining the report of its scrutiny committee and will shortly take up for hearing the PTI foreign funding case, informed sources told Dawn.
The ECP Scrutiny Committee submitted its report to the commission on August 17 after meeting on over 70 occasions since March 2018 when it was formed.
The committee was initially mandated to complete scrutiny in one month. However, its mandate was extended for another two months and subsequently for an indefinite period. Finally on applications filed by the petitioner and PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar complaining about lack of progress, the ECP on July 2, 2020 ordered the committee to complete its scrutiny by August 17 and submit a report to the ECP.
Dawn has gained exclusive access to ECP Scrutiny Committee order sheets that make shocking revelations about the PTI’s continued failure right till the end of the scrutiny this month to share financial details ordered by the committee in April 2018. The financial records include details of bank accounts in and outside Pakistan and sources and details of funds received from different parts of the world.
The Scrutiny Committee order sheets reveal that in April 2018, the committee for the first time listed 10 financial instruments that included statements of all bank accounts maintained by the PTI in Pakistan and abroad. On May 28, 2018, the committee asked the PTI lawyer “whether the accounts and other information asked for vide order, dated April 25, 2018, have been prepared or not”. The reply was in negative.”
Documents highlight party’s refusal to share details of its bank accounts with scrutiny committee
Once again in its order sheet dated July 23, 2019, the committee states that “despite repeated directions, the respondent did not provide complete information”. On June 2, 2020, the committee once again wrote in its order sheet that the “learned counsel for the respondent (PTI) was asked to provide details of foreign accounts as per direction of the Committee dated April 25, 2018”. As late as July 15, 2020, the committee reminded the PTI to submit details of sources of income of the period in question. It further asked the party to make available the record of domestic contributions/donations, along with details of expenditures of the period.
Even during the final meetings of the committee, the PTI failed to provide the requisite information as the committee notes in its order of July 23, 2020 that “the respondent party (PTI) is directed to provide the requisite information on the next date of hearing to come up for further proceedings on August 6, 2020”.
The ECP Scrutiny Committee order sheets also confirm the exclusive “Dawn Story of January 10, 2019” in which the discovery of more than a dozen PTI bank accounts, mostly concealed from the ECP, was revealed. The story was contested by the PTI. The Scrutiny Committee order sheet dated July 18, 2018 confirms that “in response to our letter dated July 3, 2018, addressed to the Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi, Statement of 23 banks have so far been received”.
The Scrutiny Committee order sheets make another shocking revelation on the pressure exerted by the PTI on the committee to refuse sharing details of its bank statements with the petitioner.” The order sheet dated December 2, 2019 states that the “learned Counsel for the complainant (Akbar S. Babar) was told that copies of the documents submitted by the respondent cannot be provided at this stage as the respondent (PTI) seriously opposes it, however he will be allowed to inspect the same during the proceedings of scrutiny”.
Subsequently, the ECP Scrutiny Committee even refused to allow the petitioner to examine the PTI bank statements in contradiction of its earlier order of December 2, 2019. The subsequent order of February 25, 2020 states that “the Committee vide order dated December 2, 2019 had decided to allow the complainant to peruse the documents submitted by the respondent except bank statements which have been requisitioned by the committee from the Banks through State Bank of Pakistan and also from the respondent (PTI).”
During the two-and-a-half years, the committee met on 70 plus occasions, during which time on more than 24 occasions, the PTI sought adjournments on various pretexts.
There is documented evidence on how the PTI raised objections about one of the auditors who was subsequently replaced.
The last meeting of the Scrutiny Committee was held on August 13, 2020, when the petitioner Akbar S. Babar submitted a note challenging the scrutiny of allegedly fake and fabricated documents while the committee refused to share authenticated PTI bank statements received on the instructions of the State Bank of Pakistan. Mr Babar termed such scrutiny an “eyewash and a vain attempt to rubber-stamp unauthenticated and fake documents submitted by PTI”.
Mr Babar claims that the committee had made no serious attempt to proactively verify the evidence submitted before it by the petitioner. In the note submitted before the committee, the petitioner concludes that he cannot be part of “eyewash and a vain attempt to rubber stamp scrutiny on the basis of fake documents to re-engineer facts”.
Mr Babar, who filed the foreign funding case in November 2014, claims that no auditor worth his name would categorise an audit of any organisation as transparent and credible:
where 23 SBP-certified PTI bank accounts are kept secret;
where all international PTI bank accounts (6 identified) are kept secret;
where a five-year scrutiny is reduced to four years, excluding year 2013 against the written orders of the Supreme Court;
where the evidence of a damming Imran Khan-certified PTI special audit report is ignored and declared a non-paper;
where accounts of two US- based limited liability companies registered under the instructions of Imran Khan are kept secret;
where documented evidence of illegal funding from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere is not even investigated.
Mr Babar has now called for an ECP inquiry to ascertain why the committee failed to conduct a full and transparent scrutiny of PTI accounts and bowed to the pressure of the party by not sharing bank account details received on instructions of the SBP.
Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2020