ISLAMABAD: With the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) set to resume the hearing of foreign funding case against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday, political temperatures have started flaring up as the exchange of hot words between the government and opposition intensifies.
Ever since the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) announced that it will stage a demonstration outside the ECP office on the hearing day, many PTI leaders are frequently engaging the media to defend the government.
An official source told Dawn that Prime Minister Imran Khan had tasked his spokespersons with countering the opposition’s narrative on the foreign funding case in the media and apprising people of the actual situation and the official point of view.
On the other hand, PDM’s steering committee will be meeting on Monday (today) with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in the chair to give final touches to the opposition’s protest programme for Tuesday.
Minister says opposition misleading people, intimidating the institution
In a statement, Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the party’s vice president, Maryam Nawaz, would lead the rally from Rawalpindi, which would then turn into a public meeting outside the ECP headquarters on Constitution Avenue.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz and Parliamentary Secretary for Railways Farrukh Habib, at a press conference later in the day, claimed that the opposition parties had tried to trap the PTI but had themselves been caught in their web.
He said the main opposition parties — Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and PML-N — had no answer about their own foreign funding and were, therefore, marching towards the ECP office to pressurise the commission.
The foreign funding case against the PTI was filed in November 2014 by Akbar S. Babar, a founding member of the party. The case relates to allegations of undisclosed foreign funding of the PTI.
According to Mr Babar, 200 hearings have taken place in the case over the last six years.
“Opposition parties’ planned protest outside the ECP was a crude attempt to mislead people and intimidate the national institution,” the information minister said.
He claimed that the PPP and PML-N had failed to submit satisfactory replies to the ECP’s scrutiny committee on foreign funding and were now trying to mislead people by staging a rally.
Mr Faraz said the prime minister had already predicted that the opposition would unite against him and had gathered under one umbrella to protect their corruption.
“During their rule, both PPP and PML-N had paralysed national institutions by appointing their cronies there who safeguarded their interests,” he alleged.
The minister said the PDM was a history now as people had rejected its narrative and refused to join the protest rallies.
“These parties have played all their cards and faced defeat and embarrassment at all fronts,” he added.
Mr Faraz said the PTI had already submitted details related to foreign funding to the ECP and submitted 40,000 entries with addresses, telephone numbers and authenticated transactions.
On the contrary, he said, the parties in the PDM had not been able to submit replies about their foreign funding till date.
“The Election Commission’s scrutiny committee repeatedly sought identity cards and addresses of people who donated to both parties, but they failed to provide any satisfactory answer,” he added.
The information minister said both the former ruling parties had acted as if the country was their personal property, asking them to submit details to the ECP so that the public could know who the liar was.
“PDM leaders should appear before the scrutiny committee and submit required documents and accounts instead of hiding behind protesting gangs,” he added.
The minister said when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) issued notice to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the PDM chief threatened to stage a sit-in in front of the bureau’s office, which showed that he did not have a proof to satisfy the anti-graft watchdog.
“They have been making a hue and cry about rigging in the 2018 elections but had failed to provide any evidence to substantiate their claims,” he added.
Replying to a question, Mr Faraz said the opposition alliance had been discredited both nationally and internationally for trying to hoodwink people to protect its corruption.
“People have rejected their narrative,” he said, adding that “it is ironic that those who benefited from the National Reconciliation Ordinance- (NRO) concessions are accusing the present government of wrongdoings in the Broadsheet issue.
Broadsheet is a UK-based assets recovery firm.
Mr Faraz said Prime Minister Khan had constituted a committee which would bring the British judge hearing the Broadsheet case and expose former rulers.
Later, Farrukh Habib, in a Dawn TV programme, said that the PTI had submitted all documents required by the ECP.
He said PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi had filed a petition against the PTI similar to that of Akbar S. Babar in the Supreme Court, but the apex court rejected his plea.
Mr Habib said foreign funding did not come under the purview of the ECP as it could only investigate ‘prohibited’ funding.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2021