ISLAMABAD: The scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan concluded hearing of the foreign funding case against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) over a month ago, but in a surprising development its meeting will be reconvened on Sept 21, informed sources told Dawn.

The committee had concluded its deliberations on Aug 13 and as per the ECP’s June 2 order, it had submitted its report to the commission on Aug 17.

Notices were issued to both the PTI and petitioner Akbar S. Babar.

The committee was formed in March 2018 to complete the scrutiny in one month. Subsequently, its tenure was extended indefinitely.

The petitioner has accused the committee of failing to conduct a transparent scrutiny by concealing incriminating evidence against the PTI that included the party’s 23 bank statements revealed on the directives of the State Bank of Pakistan as well as its all international bank accounts. He said the scrutiny committee was refusing to validate evidence presented by him.

Committee has already submitted its report to commission

Mr Babar had alleged in his written note before the committee that he should not be expected to be part of a sham scrutiny process to rubber-stamp unauthenticated fake and fabricated documents submitted by the PTI.

The ECP scrutiny committee’s order sheets, copies of which are exclusively available with Dawn, make shocking revelations on transparency of the process.

The order sheets reveal that in April 2018, the committee for the first time listed 10 financial instruments that included all bank statements of accounts maintained by the PTI in Pakistan and abroad.

On May 28, 2018, the committee asked the PTI’s lawyer “whether the accounts and other information asked for vide order, dated April 25, 2018, have been prepared or not”.

The reply was in the “negative”. Once again in its order sheet dated July 23, 2019, the committee stated 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 questioned period. They were further asked to make available the record of domestic contributions/donations along with details of expenditures of the questioned period”.

Even during the final meetings of the committee, the PTI failed to provide the requisite information as the committee notes in its July 23, 2020, order: “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’s order sheets also confirm a Dawn’s story of Jan 10, 2019 about over a dozen undeclared PTI bank accounts.

The scrutiny committee’s order sheet dated July 18, 2018 now confirms that “in response to our letter dated July 3, 2018, addressed to the Governor, State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi, statements of 23 banks have so far been received. Separate list has been prepared and placed on file”.

The scrutiny committee’s order sheets make another shocking revelation on the pressure exerted by the PTI on the committee to refuse sharing its bank statements with the petitioner.

The order sheet dated Dec 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 inspect or peruse the PTI bank statements in clear contradiction of its earlier order of Dec 2, 2019.

The subsequent order of Feb 25, 2020, states: “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 the State Bank of Pakistan and also from the respondent [PTI].”

During the past two-and-a-half years, the committee met on 70-plus occasions during which time on more than 24 occasions, the PTI sought written or oral adjournments on various pretexts and filed no less than four applications on similar grounds objecting to, among others, the presence of complainant in the scrutiny proceedings and/or seeking secrecy and confidentiality of the proceedings to prevent public and media oversight.

The committee passed at least 18 orders asking the PTI to file pertinent documents/record and documenting the failure and non-compliance by the PTI.

There is documented evidence on how the PTI raised objections over one of its auditors who was subsequently replaced.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2020