ISLAMABAD: In a surprising move, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that had last week hailed the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to allow its founding and disgruntled member Akbar S. Babar to get assistance of financial experts for perusal of all financial documents pertaining to the party’s foreign funding has now decided to challenge it.
A team of the ruling PTI led by their counsel Syed Khawar Shah on Monday presented before the ECP an “application for partial review” of its order dated April 14, 2021 questioning the proposal of associating “Chartered Accountant or Financial Expert during Scrutiny Process”.
In its review plea, the ruling party claimed that allowing “assistance of financial experts during the scrutiny process” would amount to sabotaging the whole process.
Headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, the ECP bench had directed its scrutiny committee last week to grant eight days to both the parties for documents inspection and submission of its report to the ECP by the end of May.
Akbar seeks eight-day schedule of document inspection, urges ECP, scrutiny panel not to allow further delay
As the ECP had also sought from both parties names of their two technical experts who would attend scrutiny committee meeting, Mr Babar and his legal team led by Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah accompanied by Badar Iqbal Chaudhry arrived along with two financial experts nominated in writing before the ECP on Monday.
While the scrutiny committee could not meet formally as the director general (law) who heads it was out of town to mourn the demise of the spouse of retired Justice Irshad Qaiser, the commission’s member from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the counsel for Mr Babar requested the one scrutiny committee member present that the panel must proceed with the scrutiny process without further delay as directed by the ECP. “We have complied with the ECP directions and submitted the names of the two auditors and we expect the committee not to delay the process at PTI’s behest,” a source privy to the development quoted the counsel for the petitioner as requesting the scrutiny committee member.
In his interaction with reporters outside the ECP, Mr Babar later said the respondent had decided to challenge an order that it had publicly claimed a victory of its stand and “rejection of the petitioner’s application” to end secrecy of PTI accounts. He said the PTI and a section of media had claimed that his petition for ending secrecy of the ruling party’s accounts in foreign funding case had been rejected, whereas in reality the ECP had proposed a way forward for the scrutiny after consulting legal counsel of both parties.
Mr Babar urged the scrutiny committee to proceed with the scrutiny process without further delay and finalise an eight-day schedule for its nominated chartered accountants to peruse all PTI accounts and record before the scrutiny committee. He said the PTI must not be allowed to further delay the scrutiny process.
The bench in its last week order recalled the ECP earlier order dated May 30, 2016 dismissing the respondent’s (PTI) applications seeking security, secrecy and sanctity of the scrutiny committee proceedings of its funds and had held that record being scrutinised was a “public document, the copies of which can be obtained by anyone”.
Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2021