ECP panel to hear foreign funding cases against PML-N, PPP today

Updated 01 Oct 2020

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The scrutiny committee has issued notices to the PML-N and the PPP at a time when it is left with less than two weeks to complete a fresh audit of the ruling PTI’s bank accounts and submit a report to the ECP.  — APP/File
The scrutiny committee has issued notices to the PML-N and the PPP at a time when it is left with less than two weeks to complete a fresh audit of the ruling PTI’s bank accounts and submit a report to the ECP. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will take up the foreign funding cases against two major opposition parties — the PML-N and the PPP — on Thursday (today).

Informed sources told Dawn that notices had been issued to the parties on Monday on the orders of the commission.

The scrutiny committee has issued notices to the PML-N and the PPP at a time when it is left with less than two weeks to complete a fresh audit of the ruling PTI’s bank accounts and submit a report to the ECP.

After questioning for about three years the jurisdiction of the ECP to scrutinise its accounts, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had approached the commission in October 2017 to seek scrutiny of funding record of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for years 2013-2015.

In two separate ‘complaints’, the PTI accused the PML-N and the PPP of concealing their sources of funds and companies registered by them in the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively, and sought cancellation of election symbols allocated to them “for their failure to meet legal requirements for eligibility to obtain the symbols”.

Scrutiny has been initiated on complaints of PTI which too is facing similar process

The complaint against the PML-N says that the party in its accounts has relied on audit by non-quality control review-rated firms, which have adopted a wrong reporting format. No sources of funds have been declared, the accounts are contradictory, do not comply with the mandatory requirements of the Political Parties Order (PPO) or the Political Parties Rules (PPR) and exhibit violation of articles 6 and 13 of the PPO read with rules 4 and 6 of the PPR, it alleges.

“The respondent political party may be generating money from prohibited sources but since they have consciously failed to provide any information it is clear that the respondent political party is attempting to conceal where the money is being generated from,” the complaint says.

It says the PML-N received funds from “other revenue” but fails to disclose what these other revenues were and how these could raise such an exorbitant fund. “This revenue could be coming from a foreign company or foreign government or from a multinational but no disclosure is being made clearly in order to conceal this information so that nobody can question the person or organisation which is sending these funds”.

The complaint stresses that the reason and rationale behind the declaration of sources of party funds is to ensure that no funds are being collected from any prohibited source. It gives the government an opportunity to scrutinise whether a party is being operated as a foreign-aided political party as defined under Article 2(c) of the PPO.

Referring to reports that Rs1.3 billion was spent by the PML-N on its election campaign in 2013, the complaint says: “None of this amount or even part of this amount is explained as to how it was generated and what the source of funds was”.

It alleges that the PML-N ran a private limited company in the UK, which was not disclosed in the documents submitted to the ECP. “This is a foreign incorporated company which is registered under the Registrar of Companies for England and Wales. What is more alarming is that under the Objective Clause, this company has power to carry on any trade or business and to enter into any arrangement with any government or authority that it may seem conducive to the attainment of the company object(ive) or any of them and to obtain from any such government or authority any charter, decrees, rights, privileges or concessions which the company may think desirable and to carry out exercise and comply with any such charter, decrees, rights, privileges and concessions,” it reads.

The complainant says information regarding the company funds should also be sought by the ECP to scrutinise whether the company is providing or collecting any money, which is prohibited under the PPO. The UK-based company is a sheer violation of the PPO and has been formed for ulterior motives and its non-disclosure exhibits mala fide concealment, it alleges.

A true copy of the Certificate of Incorporation of the PML-N (UK) and the Memorandum and the Articles of the Association of the PML-N (UK) have been attached with the complaint.

It alleges that the PML-N has been used for money laundering as the party in 2013 received Rs100 million donation from erstwhile prime minister Nawaz Sharif and later Rs45m was remitted back in the personal account of Mr Sharif. It points out that the transaction was not disclosed to the ECP.

The complaint against the PPP says the account statements of the party between 2009 and 2012 are not available either due to non-filing or for reasons best known to the party. The accounts of 2013 started with an opening balance of Rs41.47m from the previous years. However, where the amount of the opening balance was generated from was not disclosed.

The complaint says the PPP has a company registered under US laws namely the PPP LLC, which has been created to collect funds for the party. As per details of the PPP LLC, funds have been collected from foreign nationals and the government of Pakistan in large amounts. “This is against the spirit of the PPO as contributions from foreigners or the Government of Pakistan, are prohibited under the PPO. Furthermore, the PPP has failed to disclose the existence of this LLC established in USA”.

Published in Dawn, October 1st , 2020