ECP trashes scrutiny report in PTI foreign funding case

Updated 22 Sep 2020

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In its damning order on the scrutiny committee’s report, the commission noted that no definite conclusion had been drawn. — File
In its damning order on the scrutiny committee’s report, the commission noted that no definite conclusion had been drawn. — File

ISLAMABAD: In a signi­ficant development, the Ele­c­tion Commission of Pakis­tan (ECP) has trashed an ‘incomplete’ report on the foreign funding case against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf submitted to it by its scrutiny committee.

The ECP in an order said the report was neither complete nor well detailed.

“The Scrutiny Committee on the basis of documents provided by both the parties and collected from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has neither scrutinised the rec­ord nor evaluated the evidence from the documents and failed to form definite opinion,” the ECP noted.

While reprimanding the panel, the ECP observed it was the duty and responsibility of the committee to scrutinise the authenticity, reliability and credibility of each and every document(s) submitted to it by both the parties. It said the committee had the authority to approach proper forums, sources and persons to confirm the authenticity or otherwise of the documents. “Admittedly, law provides criteria of authenticity and credibility for scrutiny of the documents but the committee has not adopted proper procedure in this respect,” the ECP observed.

In its damning order on the scrutiny committee’s report, the commission noted that no definite conclusion had been drawn.

The ECP stated: “It is painful to say that ...directions were not followed in strict sense...in spite of lapse of more than 28/29 months.” It ordered the committee to conduct the scrutiny afresh and complete it as soon as possible but not later than six weeks.

After rejection of its report on August 27, the scrutiny committee met for the first time on Monday. The order unanimously passed by the ECP on its report was read out during the meeting.

As the ECP had passed the order over three and a half weeks ago, the committee now has less than three weeks to finish the task it had been unable to complete in more than two years.

As the petitioner and founding member of the PTI Akbar S. Babar sought time to consult his legal team on way forward in the light of the scrutiny report rejection by the ECP, the meeting was adjourned till Thursday (September 24).

Talking to reporters following the meeting, Mr Babar welcomed the ECP order that he said had validated his concerns repeatedly expressed over lack of transparency in the scrutiny process.

The committee, headed by ECP director general (law), was formed in March 2018 to complete audit of PTI accounts in a month. Later, its term was extended. This year the ECP on June 2 gave a final deadline to the committee for report submission by August 17. Subsequently, the committee concluded scrutiny on August 13.

Scrutiny termed eyewash

The committee’s meeting on Monday ended on a disputed note, with Akbar S. Babar submitting a note challenging the credibility of the scrutiny of allegedly fake and fabricated documents while the committee refused to share authenticated PTI bank statements received from banks on the instructions of the SBP.

Mr Babar in his note described such scrutiny as eyewash and a vain attempt to “rubber stamp unauthenticated and fake documents submitted by PTI”.

In his detailed written note to the committee, Mr Babar had listed gross irregularities in the scrutiny that made a mockery of the entire process. He stated that by refusing to allow the petitioner access to authenticated 23 PTI bank statements received on the instructions of the SBP, the committee refused to conduct impartial scrutiny according to law and terms of reference.

The petitioner claimed that not a single PTI foreign bank statement, out of the six acknowledged by the PTI, had been produced or shared for scrutiny against the clear instruction of the committee.

Mr Babar challenged the PTI move to “eliminate the year 2013” from the scrutiny process thus limiting it to four years against the SCP orders that mandated a five-year scrutiny from the year of the objected accounts. He noted that he could not be a party to an exercise that was against the TORs formulated by the ECP.

The petitioner claimed that the committee in two and a half years did not attempt to proactively verify the evidence submitted to it by the petitioner. The evidence includes documents of illegal funding from Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries, Denmark, and Australia. Similarly, he said, the committee did not attempt to verify the Special PTI Audit Report that substantiated all the allegations including receipt of donations in private bank accounts of PTI employees.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2020