ISLAMABAD: Two days after the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) refused to allow use of laptops by financial experts to scrutinise financial documents of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the ‘manual’ perusal of the party’s documents began on Thursday.
The committee’s decision had instantly been challenged before the ECP by Akbar S. Babar, the petitioner in the foreign funding case, but the commission is yet to take a decision on the application.
Chartered accountants Arsalan Vardag and Mohammad Sohaib, who have been allowed by the ECP to scrutinise the papers on behalf of the petitioner, conducted the manual perusal of the first set of PTI documents. They were neither allowed to make copies of the documents nor take photos as mobile phones were deposited before the scrutiny process.
The ECP had in its April 14 order authorised two financial analysts/chartered accountants to scrutinise the PTI accounts on behalf of the petitioner.
Experts not allowed to make copies of documents
The perusal of the PTI documents was supposed to commence on April 27; however, process was suspended after the PTI objected to the use of laptops by the two chartered accountants/financial experts nominated by the petitioner.
No decision was taken by the ECP on Thursday on the petitioner’s application seeking a directive for the scrutiny committee to allow use of laptops for scrutiny of the PTI accounts.
In his application, Mr Babar alleged bias of the committee headed by the director general law by doing everything in its power to derail the perusal process and justify a three-year-long delay in completing it.
The next meeting of the scrutiny committee is scheduled for May 3.
Talking to reporters, Mr Babar stated that the delay in concluding the case allowed a leadership to emerge that is neither serious nor competent to govern the country. He said Imran Khan gained the confidence of the people by quoting western democratic values.
“Today PM Imran Khan is being accused by a former head of a security agency of using his office to conspire against a sitting judge of the Supreme Court and opposition leaders,” he remarked.
He said that had such an accusation by a responsible former head of a security agency been made in the West, the prime minister would have resigned, a high-level inquiry ordered and the party in power would have started the process of electing a new leader,” he added.
Mr Babar said: “None of this happens here as we are a democracy in form not in substance.” The number one obstacle in getting justice is the state itself, he alleged.
Saima Tariq, the deputy director law, who was supervising the process, initially allowed the use of laptops. Subsequently, on PTI’s objection the petitioner was told not to use laptops for data recording and analysis.
The petitioner even offered to use ECP computers. However, the petitioner was asked to file an application for use of laptops to complete a formality. Subsequently, the application to use computers was turned down after several hours.
After unsuccessfully pleading the case for use of laptops during the scrutiny process, the petitioner filed an application asking the ECP to direct the scrutiny committee to allow the use of laptops for scrutiny of the PTI accounts. In the application, petitioner Babar stated: “Use of laptops during the perusal process is essential to note down, compile, compare, evaluate and analyse voluminous financial documents in a limited time period of eight working days.”
The denial to use laptops “is clearly an effort to impede and obstruct a transparent and credible perusal of documents submitted by PTI”, he added.
Mr Babar said that “after initial permission to use laptops and subsequent refusal by the scrutiny committee is yet another indication that the committee headed by DG (law) is doing everything in its power to derail the perusal process and justify a three-year-long delay of the scrutiny process. We are of the considered opinion that DG (law) who heads the scrutiny committee is now completely partisan”.
Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2021