Scrutiny committee submits report in PTI foreign funding case

Published November 30, 2021
PTI workers wave party flags during a rally. — AFP/File
PTI workers wave party flags during a rally. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: A scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) constituted in March 2019 to audit the foreign funds of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has finally submitted its report to the commission — around six months after the last deadline it was given.

Sources told Dawn that since two sitting members of the ECP were out of town, the commission would examine the report upon their return before taking up the case for an open hearing. The ECP member from Sindh, Shah Muhammad Jatoi, is scheduled to return on Tuesday (today) and the member from Balochistan on Wednesday.

The foreign funding case against the PTI continues to linger since November 2014 when it was filed by the party’s founding member, Akbar S. Babar.

In his petition, Babar had alleged serious financial irregularities in the ruling party’s accounts, including illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank accounts within the country and abroad, money laundering and use of private bank accounts of party employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East.

The case involving PTI awaiting ECP decision for seven years

The ECP had in September last year trashed an “incomplete” report of its scrutiny committee on the foreign funding case. In an order, the commission said the report was neither complete nor well detailed.

“The Scrutiny Committee on the basis of documents provided by both the parties and collected from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has neither scrutinised the rec­ord nor evaluated the evidence from the documents and failed to form definite opinion,” the ECP noted.

While reprimanding the panel, it observed that it was the duty and responsibility of the committee to scrutinise the authenticity, reliability and credibility of each and every document(s) submitted to it by both the parties. It said the committee had the authority to approach proper forums, sources and people to confirm the authenticity or otherwise of the documents.

“Admittedly, law provides criteria of authenticity and credibility for scrutiny of the documents, but the committee has not adopted proper procedure in this respect,” the ECP observed.

In its damning order on the scrutiny committee’s report, the commission noted that no definite conclusion had been drawn. “It is painful to say that... directions were not followed in strict sense... in spite of lapse of more than 28/29 months,” it stated. It ordered the committee to conduct the scrutiny afresh and complete it as soon as possible, but not later than six weeks.

Under the last order, the scrutiny committee was supposed to submit its report by the end of May, which it submitted now on Friday.

The ECP had allowed perusal of the financial records by two financial auditors of the petitioners during the fresh scrutiny process, during which some startling revelations were made: one of which was about authorising four paid PTI employees to receive donations from abroad in their personal bank accounts.

The petitioner, after conclusion of the scrutiny, had also released a fact-finding report revealing illegal funding worth Rs2.2 billion. The report also detailed the concealment of PTI bank accounts from the ECP. It stated that the ruling party had not declared all of its bank accounts and neither provided bank statements of all its accounts.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2021

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