ISLAMABAD: In remarks that surprised many, the head of the scrutiny committee auditing the ruling PTI’s foreign funding candidly told the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday that the scrutiny process would never end.
Informed sources told Dawn that during the course of hearing of a petition challenging the decision of the ECP scrutiny committee to keep Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s financial documents secret, when ECP member from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa retired Justice Irshad Qaiser inquired from the ECP director general (law), who heads the scrutiny panel, how long the scrutiny process will continue, the latter said “forever”.
When asked to submit a reply to the petitioner’s application, the DG law said he had already passed an order and there was no need to submit a reply.
“Yes. Now I recall, we had ordered the committee on August 27, 2020 to finalise its report in six weeks. You have to explain in writing why the committee fails to complete the scrutiny and submit a report within the stipulated time frame as directed in the order,” Justice Qaiser asserted.
Commission adjourns hearing of petition seeking Gilani’s disqualification as senator
The scrutiny committee head, who is due to retire over the next few months, agreed to submit a written reply. He blamed both parties for the delay in scrutiny.
Akbar S. Babar, the petitioner and founding member of the PTI, wondered why it had taken three years for the committee to scrutinise PTI’s accounts without any tangible progress.
He said not a single out of six identified international PTI accounts had been sought, adding that all 23 accounts of the ruling party, mostly concealed from the ECP, remained secret and outside the purview of scrutiny. He said no auditor of any credibility would accept an audit where all bank statements were kept secret.
When the petitioner’s counsel pointed out that the panel was supposed to scrutinise the PTI accounts of five years (2009-2013) and that the party had refused to provide documents for the financial year (2012-13), the DG law said that “if they refuse to submit documents for that year, what can I do”.
The PTI’s lawyer claimed that they only received the notice the same day and needed more time to respond to the complaint.
Petitioner’s lawyer Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah read out excerpts of the committee’s order sheets whereby it reasoned that accounts were not shared as the PTI objected to it. He asked as to what law or rule allowed the accused to dictate terms of review, adding that access to all PTI record was a legal right of the petitioner, including under the Right to Information Act. He said the committee had neither the will nor the resolve to conduct a fair and transparent scrutiny. “It only wants the petitioner to rubber-stamp a fake scrutiny process.”
Counsel Shah suggested that if all the documents were shared with the petitioner, including all PTI bank statements requisitioned by the State Bank of Pakistan, they would scrutinise the entire record and submit their findings to the committee in a few days. It would then be up to the committee to review them and submit its findings to the ECP for further action.
The proceedings were adjourned till March 30.
Later, talking to reporters, Akbar S. Babar said all PTI accounts must be part of scrutiny without any exception. He said the people of Pakistan had a right to know if the PTI leadership was indulged in financial corruption and illegal funding.
He said his goal remained the same since the day he had filed the case — to resurrect the PTI on its founding principles. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan chose a path that had proved to be destructive for the party and the country.
The ECP adjourned till April 5 the hearing of a petition seeking disqualification of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as a senator.
The PTI on Monday filed with the commission an amended petition making two of its lawmakers, who had allegedly been offered bribe by former premier’s son Ali Haider Gilani, as pro forma respondents (a necessary party against whom no relief has been sought).
PTI’s Maleeka Bokhari, while appearing before a bench of the ECP, said MNAs Fahim Khan and Jamil Ahmad, seen in the video, were witnesses in their view but had been made a party on the commission’s directive.
The counsel for Senator Gilani and his son Ali Haider sought time for submitting written arguments.
Talking to reporters outside the ECP, PTI leader Farrukh Habib said the video of Ali Haider Gilani was a clear evidence of corrupt practices used for the election of Yousuf Raza Gilani on the Senate seat. “This evidence cannot be overlooked,” he said and appealed to the ECP to disqualify Mr Gilani in the light of the constitutional provisions.
Speaking on the occasion, PTI lawmaker Maleeha Bokhari said the PTI would continue its struggle for sanctity of vote. She said people’s confidence had been stolen and Constitution violated on March 3 by rigging Senate polls.
She alleged that the ECP had failed to perform its constitutional duty of holding free, fair and honest elections. “It is unfortunate that a constitutional body was not fulfilling its responsibilities.”
Mr Gilani’s counsel Ahmad Hasan, while talking to reporters, said the PTI was blaming the ECP for its own failure.
The ECP also adjourned hearing of a petition seeking disqualification of Faryal Talpur, a member of the Sindh Assembly and sister of former president Asif Ali Zardari.
The petition filed by PTI MPAs Arsalan Taj and Arabia Azfar accused Ms Talpur of concealing her assets.
Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2021