THE foreign funding case against the PTI has become a never-ending tale. It has been dragging on for years and after many dozens of hearings it is still nowhere near concluding. The case pertains to a complaint by Akbar S. Babar, one of the founding members of the PTI, in which he has accused the party of acquiring illegal funding. The case is being heard by the Election Commission of Pakistan which is the relevant authority to decide whether the PTI stands guilty as charged. The ECP had appointed a scrutiny committee to go over all the relevant documents and determine if the case could actually be proved against the PTI. For its part, the PTI has also accused the PPP and PML-N of illegal funding.

The hearings of the case are now bogged down in minor details like the use of laptops for data uploading and whether printouts of this data should be allowed in the hearing or not. The whole exercise appears to be dissolving into a farcical project given the unnecessary delays that do not appear to be grounded in substantive reasons. This is giving rise to all manner of conjecture that has an adverse impact on the credibility of the ECP. The chief election commissioner therefore needs to rap the scrutiny committee on the knuckles for its unjustifiable tardiness. The committee must fast-track its process and not allow the lawyers to drag the arguments endlessly. The committee should also move swiftly to determine if the documentary evidence being presented holds up to legal scrutiny. The tediousness of the process should not become an excuse to keep the hearing going without any conclusions. The chief election commissioner must emulate the decisive deadlines that had been given by his predecessor to wrap up the case. After his retirement, the scrutiny committee had gone back to its slow pace. It is never easy for any institution to hold the ruling party to account. This may be one reason why the ECP is not pushing the case as firmly as it should. However, given the time already elapsed, and the high stakes involved, nothing less than the personal intervention of the ECP chief will expedite matters. The nation has a right to know the truth of the matter under scrutiny. The PTI also deserves a decision so that the matter is settled once and for all.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021

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