THE Election Commission of Pakistan has summoned both the PML-N and PPP on Monday in connection with the foreign funding case. Both parties have been issued notices to appear before the scrutiny committee and present their defence.

The appearance will take place a day before the previously scheduled demonstration in front of the ECP offices by the Pakistan Democratic Movement opposition alliance, which is aiming to highlight the delay in concluding the foreign funding case against the ruling PTI. This case has been dragging on for more than six years without reaching a final judgement. The case pertains to allegations that the PTI has taken funds from dubious, prohibited and illegal sources which, if proven, can lead to severe consequences for the party.

For its part, the PTI’s lawyers have launched multiple attempts over the years to question the jurisdiction of the ECP over this matter. These petitions have been dismissed at various platforms and the ECP has maintained that it is fully within its jurisdiction to demand an explanation from the PTI about its sources of funding. It has formed a scrutiny committee to go over all the documents presented in order to reach a final conclusion. The PTI has also challenged the source of funding for the PML-N and PPP and their case is also in front of the ECP. The PDM is now demanding that the ECP bring the case against the PTI to a final conclusion.

At one point, the ECP had itself decided to fast-track the hearings but then the pace slowed over the previous year and the scrutiny of evidence was kept pending with each successive hearing. Therefore, the demand to complete the hearing and make a decision are justified. All parties have been given ample time to argue their case. There is no reason the issue should be dragged any further. As the ruling party, the PTI must display transparency in terms of proving the bona fides of its funding sources. If it has nothing to hide, or has done nothing wrong as it claims, then it has no reason to ask for more time or resort to delaying tactics. It should produce all bank statements and account details as demanded by the ECP and substantiate its claims that all its sources of funds are above board, fully declared and legal.

The ECP, for its part, needs to dispel the impression that it is allowing for delays when there is hardly any need for it. One way for the ECP to speed up the matter is not to give extended dates for hearings. It should order daily hearings for all parties and decide the issue once and for all. The PML-N and PPP also need to cough up all the evidence demanded by the ECP instead of politicising the issue against the PTI. All parties must come clean without further delay.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2021

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