ECP body summons PML-N, PPP a day before protest

Published January 16, 2021
The scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan has summoned both the PPP and the PML-N in foreign funding cases on Monday. — AFP/File
The scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan has summoned both the PPP and the PML-N in foreign funding cases on Monday. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: As the ruling PTI and the two main opposition parties continue to accuse each other of receiving funds from prohibited sources, the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan has summoned both the PPP and the PML-N in foreign funding cases on Monday — a day before the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s planned protest outside the ECP office.

The PML-N and PPP have been issued notices asking their representatives to appear before the scrutiny panel at 12 noon and 2pm, respectively.

In a related development, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has submitted an application to the chief election commissioner seeking day-to-day hearing of cases against the two opposition parties.

Talking to reporters after submitting the application, PTI lawmaker Farrukh Habib challenged PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to submit the record asked for by the scrutiny committee.

He said the PDM’protest plan was meant to pressurise the ECP and get an NRO in the prohibited funding cases.

PTI lawmaker challenges Maryam, Bilawal to submit records of funding of their parties

He said the petitions against PML-N and PPP had been filed in 2017, but no decision could be taken due to non-cooperation of the parties with the committee.

The PTI MNA alleged that the two parties were reluctant to submit records because their accounts had been used for money laundering.

He asked the PML-N leadership to explain where amounts ranging between Rs50 million and Rs150m came in their accounts from.

“Their track record shows they have been getting funds from interest groups,” Mr Habib said and claimed that it had emerged during the TT case against Shehbaz Sharif and Hamza Shehbaz that multi-million rupees had been deposited in their accounts by a builder from Gujrat and other contractors.

He said Nawaz Sharif in the past was said to have received funds from the then Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden to topple the Benazir Bhutto government.

Turning his guns towards the PPP, the PTI MNA said it was the only party whose heads — Asif Ali Zardari and her late spouse — had hired lobbyists in individual capacity to get an NRO.

He said Mark Siegel had been paid $340,000 between 1999 and 2008. Mr Habib said he had a signed copy of Mr Zardari’s agreement with Mr Siegel.

He said a heavy amount of $6 million was paid to Mr Siegel and Associates from the national exchequer soon after the PPP came into power. He said in the name of lobbying for Pakistan, the PPP leaders had hired the services of the man to protect their personal interests.

He said former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice wrote in her book that she helped Benazir Bhutto in striking an NRO deal with the then military ruler Musharraf.

‘No change in PTI stance’

Central information secretary of PTI Ahmad Jawad has brushed aside the perception about the party’s departure from its earlier stance on foreign funding.

In a statement he said the fact remained that PTI had incorporated two limited liability companies (LLCs) in the US in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) which provided definitions of “Foreign Principal” that “Any person who engages within USA in political activities for or in the interest of such Foreign Principal…” had to nominate an agent.

In this context, he said, the PTI in reply to a question raised by the ECP scrutiny committee had merely elaborated the duties and responsibilities of a “Foreign Principal” and its nominated “Agents”, collecting the membership fee and donations from overseas Pakistanis holding National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis.

“In continuation of the same, in order to elaborate the legal proposition, the PTI Legal Team had mentioned that if some irregularity is committed by its Agents in violation of the instructions given by PTI or in deviation of any legal requirements of FARA, the Agent could be held responsible. This has always been the PTI position,” he asserted.

Mr Jawad said in conclusion of the said answer to the question, the PTI had clearly mentioned that the agents of its LLCs had provided a duly notarised authenticated list along with sworn affidavits stating that they had adhered to the PTI fund raising policy and the funds remitted to the party through proper banking channels had been contributed by individuals of Pakistani origin.

“The said remitted accounts are duly documented and are totally reconciled in the PTI’s external Audit Reports. The said reconciled and duly notarized reports have already been submitted before the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Scrutiny Committee of ECP,” Mr Jawad said.

“This impression that PTI has taken departure from its actual stance and shifted responsibilities of committing illegalities upon its Agents is totally misleading and distortion of facts, manipulated by the Complainant of alleged prohibited funds which is a malicious act just to cause prejudice in the minds of Public at Large against PTI,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2021

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