ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday said that its scrutiny committee enjoyed the power and status of a joint investigation team (JIT) and could not hold open hearing in the foreign funding case it was seized with.
“The committee will face difficulties in proceeding with the case if it happens,” the ECP said in a statement released with signature of its public relations director Altaf Ahmad.
The statement came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan proposed public hearing in the foreign funding case and said it should be aired live. “Foreign funding case proceedings should be aired live on TV so that everything is known to the general public,” the prime minister said while addressing a public rally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The ECP statement, however, said the commission would hold open hearing in the foreign funding case after receiving recommendations from the scrutiny committee, which would be shared with the parties.
It said the commission after hearing arguments from both sides would decide the case on merit as soon as possible. “The commission assures it will decide the case without any fear or pressure,” it said, adding that the foreign funding case was an “important and sensitive” one and a merit-based decision on it would serve the “national interest”.
Commission’s statement comes a day after PM proposed proceedings of the case live on TV
The commission urged the people to avoid making unnecessary comments on the case without any evidence so that it could proceed with the case with full attention.
Reacting to the ECP’s statement, petitioner and founding member of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Akbar S. Babar said the scrutiny committee had completely failed to perform its duties credibly, transparently and in accordance with the terms of reference (ToR).
“These concerns have been validated by the ECP in its order dated Aug 27, 2020 when it rejected the committee’s report of Aug 17, 2020 by stating that the committee neither scrutinised the record nor evaluated the evidence from the documents,” he added.
Despite a clear indictment of its performance, he regretted, the committee was again given an opportunity to conduct and conclude scrutiny of PTI’s foreign funding as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, he added, during the period between Aug 27 and Jan 20, 2020, the committee refused course correction as per law and scrutiny of ToR. Giving an example, Mr Babar said, when requested again to share PTI’s accounts and other financial documents with him, the committee flatly refused “under documented PTI pressure”.
He said the ECP scrutiny committee had in its last meeting even reneged on its written commitment to validate or otherwise the evidence downloaded from the US Department of Justice regarding illegal funding from two US companies registered under written instructions of Imran Khan. Instead of addressing the genuine concerns of the petitioner over a lack of transparency, the committee chose to walk out which in itself was unprecedented, he added.
“The ECP claims that the scrutiny committee is just like a JIT. This must be the only JIT of its kind that is neither independent nor fair and proactive to investigate and validate evidence,” he said.
Mr Babar said the only way forward for the ECP was to remand all documents from the committee and conduct an independent inquiry under its direct supervision and in full public view if it was serious in coming to a credible conclusion.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2021