ISLAMABAD: In a written statement filed with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s Scrutiny Committee, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has disowned the public offer of Prime Minister Imran Khan to end secrecy during the scrutiny of the party’s foreign funding and trial of the foreign funding case.
The PM had made the offer for airing live the scrutiny proceedings during a visit to Wana on Jan 20.
The offer prompted the petitioner and PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar to file an application before the committee on Jan 26 seeking copies of PTI financial documents, including 23 bank statements mostly concealed from the ECP and finally revealed on the instructions of the State Bank of Pakistan.
The application had sought access to the documents as a legal right of the complainant under Section 5(4) of the Political Parties Order 2002 and Section 203(5) of the Election Act 2017 besides the order of the ECP dated May 30, 2018 and the order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) dated Dec 4, 2019.
In his hand-written statement, PTI lawyer Shah Khawar while refusing access to the PTI documents to the petitioner states that “the statement of party Chairman has been wrongly construed which is not tantamount to provide documents furnished by the answering respondents (PTI) and material collected by this scrutiny committee”.
He asks the ECP Scrutiny Committee to dismiss the petitioner’s request for access to the documents.
The petitioner’s lawyer Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah has repeatedly asserted that access to the documents is a legal right ratified by the ECP in its orders as well as by the IHC when the PTI filed applications and petitions demanding secrecy.
“How can the petitioner assist the Scrutiny Committee when critical pieces of evidence are kept secret,” Mr Shah was quoted as arguing before the committee.
Talking to reporters, the petitioner asserted that the statement of PM Khan offering an end to secrecy was only for public consumption to mislead them. “The PTI has a poor record when it comes to transparency in the case,” he said.
Mr Babar reiterated that the terms of reference of the Scrutiny Committee stated that the inquiry should be conducted in the presence of the two parties. “Whereas, in reality, the petitioner is being asked to rubberstamp a scrutiny process blindfolded. This is unacceptable,” he said. “The petitioner and the people have a right to know the facts which are being concealed by keeping documents secret illegally by a party that champions the cause of transparency and accountability.”
He said media reports indicated that the head of the collapsed Abraaj group Arif Naqvi was a lead financier of the PTI and Imran Khan, an allegation not denied by party to date, and yet no one was interested to investigate the matter despite requests. Similarly there was no record of PTI funding from the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere nor was there any effort to validate the evidence submitted by the petitioner in this regard, he said.
Mr Babar said that he and his lawyers would decide their future course of action after the committee’s order on the issue when it next met on Feb 9.
Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2021