ECP panel rejects plea for access to PTI accounts

Published February 10, 2021
The scrutiny panel on Tuesday rejected Akbar S. Babar’s petition seeking access to PTI documents, including details of over a dozen ‘undeclared’ bank accounts of the party. — AFP/File
The scrutiny panel on Tuesday rejected Akbar S. Babar’s petition seeking access to PTI documents, including details of over a dozen ‘undeclared’ bank accounts of the party. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be another setback to a founding member of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the scrutiny process of the ruling party’s foreign funding case, the scrutiny panel on Tuesday rejected Akbar S. Babar’s petition seeking access to PTI documents, including details of over a dozen ‘undeclared’ bank accounts of the party.

In its latest order, the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) highlighted that the PTI documents were kept ‘secret’ because the ruling party had objected to sharing the same with the petitioner.

Also, the counsel for the PTI Shah Khawar had earlier termed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent offer of ending secrecy in the foreign funding matter “misconstrued”, because “his offer did not mean ending secrecy of the PTI documents”.

The counsel for the petitioner Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah, who was assisted by Badar Iqbal Chaudhry during the scrutiny proceedings, also conveyed to the committee that they would challenge its latest decision before the ECP, as transparency, law and ECP orders demanded full access to PTI documents.

The scrutiny committee meeting was later adjourned to February 15.

Parliamentary secretary of the ruling party says all donations from overseas Pakistanis came through banking channels

During the scrutiny proceedings, the counsel for the petitioner read out a news report whereby the PTI finance secretary admitted that the PTI had authorised using personal bank accounts of four PTI ‘employees’ to collect donations from within and outside Pakistan and that funds had been received from the UAE through those accounts.

Mr Shah said he had repeatedly referred to the original petition specifying the front accounts of the PTI employees that had been allegedly used to collect illegal money particularly from the Middle East and siphoned off by the top leadership through cash cheques.

While moving an application before the scrutiny panel, the counsel said it was incumbent on the committee to write to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for full access to the personal accounts of the four PTI employees to ascertain the full scale and scope of illegal fund raising.

The counsel said his client had repeatedly requested the scrutiny committee to investigate the PTI employees’ private bank accounts which had been ‘illegally used as a front’ to collect funds. Despite sharing ample evidence, the scrutiny committee till date had made no effort to investigate those accounts, he pointed out.

Also, the PTI finance secretary had admitted to the existence of a special audit report verifying all the allegations of financial irregularities by the PTI that the ruling party refused to acknowledge before the scrutiny committee, Mr Shah added.

The PTI was asked to respond to the news report and the application filed by the petitioner seeking SBP intervention to reveal the personal bank accounts of the four ‘employees’.

For PTI funds’ scrutiny, the committee will again meet on Monday.

‘PML-N laid foundation of foreign funding’

Soon after the scrutiny committee meeting, PTI parliamentary secretary Farrukh Habib while talking to reporters said all PTI donations from abroad came through banking channels and lambasted the opposition’s objections to the ruling party right to allow its ‘paid employees’ to receive donation.

It was like pot calling the kettle black, he said. “They are the ones who laid the foundations of foreign funding in Pakistan,” he said while accusing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz of having been “gifted” the laundered money by her father and ex-premier Nawaz Sharif.

He said that while the opposition party accused the PTI of having gotten foreign funding, all of their leaders were sitting abroad. “The foreign funding case is getting on Maryam’s nerves,” he said and dared the opposition party to appear before the ECP and present their money trail.

He said Ms Maryam was “caught with her lies, including in the Calibri font faux pas [in the Panama Papers case].”

He said a PML-N leader had disclosed Sharif family’s ties with Indian businessman, Sajjan Jindal, through a tweet in April 2017. “These were the resources used for receiving funding from India to weaken Pakistan and its institutions,” he remarked.

He chided the opposition for its talks of a Kashmir’s debacle. He recalled that when ex-PM Sharif had gone to India to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Modi, he preferred not to see the APHC leaders.

He said Mr Sharif never uttered a single word about Indian spy Kulbushan Jhadav.

Mr Habib also referred to the allegation that the PML-N supremo had received Rs10 million from Osama Bin Laden to topple the PPP government in the 1990s and chided both parties for joining hands.

He also alleged that then PM Sharif had sent Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Amjad Qadri in 1998 for recognising Israel.

Transparency in scrutiny

Talking to reporters, PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar said the scrutiny committee’s decision to keep PTI documents ‘secret’ had no legal basis and would be challenged before the ECP.

He said keeping the documents secret would only made the transparency and credibility of the scrutiny process doubtful. He recalled that ECP in its August 27, 2020 order had already rejected the committee’s report after nearly two and half years of deliberations.

Mr Babar said the PTI’s acknowledgment of using employees front accounts for fund raising was an admission of guilt and vindication of his stance of mega corruption and financial irregularity.

He said the committee had been formed in March 2018 and asked to complete scrutiny within one month, but the process was still under way. He requested the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) to intervene. He said the scrutiny committee and the ECP could not be separated, as committee’s failure to conduct transparent scrutiny impacted ECP’s public standing as an independent constitutional body. He again requested the ECP to take charge of the case and conduct scrutiny under its direct supervision.

Mr Babar said he had no intention of relenting on the issue as he was determined to bring truth before the people even if it meant knocking the doors of the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2021

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