ISLAMABAD: In an interesting development, the election commission scrutiny committee’s report on the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) foreign funding shared with both the parties on Jan 4, does not include eight volumes of the documents and bank statements requisitioned through the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
The documents concealed by the committee include all original 28 bank statements and year-wise details of foreign funds transferred to the PTI’s accounts between 2009-13.
These crucial pieces of evidence have been kept confidential as per the committee’s own desires expressed on page 83 of its report that states that “the Committee is of the considered opinion that the portions of the Report which have been prepared on the basis of (PTI) Bank Statements obtained through State Bank of Pakistan may be kept confidential and classified and may not be released in public domain”.
A review of the report reveals that it is stated in its enclosures section that “Documents Requisitioned by the Commission through State Bank of Pakistan-Bank Statements (Book 1 to 8)” have been kept secret and are not part of the report shared with the petitioner, Akbar S Babar, on Jan 4.
Key pieces of evidence have been kept confidential
The committee’s decision to keep confidential the PTI’s financial documents and bank statements is apparently in violation of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) own May 30, 2018 order that stated that “record being scrutinised is a public document, the copies whereof can be obtained by anyone”.
The ECP also passed a similar order on April 14, 2021 stating that “when the matter (Foreign Funding Case) will come before the Commission, at that time all the parties can take copies or peruse the documents”.
The committee’s report recalls that in order to bridge the information gap, the committee, with the approval of the ECP, requested the SBP to provide details pertaining to the bank accounts being operated by the PTI within the country from 2009 to 2013.
“The purpose of the Committee was to analyse the information and details received from the State Bank of Pakistan and draw a clear picture on the accounts of PTI on the basis of credible, authentic and verifiable information.”
Further in the report, the committee says it decided that the data emanating from the documents provided by the petitioner and the respondent will be reflected in a non-classified portion of the report, while data obtained by it from the SBP on its own accord will be reported in a classified section so that laws, rules and procedures governing confidentiality of the bank accounts and banking information are not violated.
It also says that the committee decided that the bank statements, which it requisitioned from banks through the SBP, will not be provided for perusal.
The document also states that the scrutiny committee was directed to examine all the records (documents submitted by the petitioner, respondent and records procured by the committee from other sources), evaluate the evidence from the documents and form a definite opinion and then submit its detailed, fact-finding, comprehensive, proper, substantial report to the ECP till the end of May 2021.
On the issue of the PTI’s employee accounts, it states the petitioner, during the course of the perusal, raised the issue of requisitioning of the information related to personal accounts of PTI employees from the SBP, who were allowed to receive in their personal accounts the donations/contributions sent from abroad and Pakistan by the party’s finance committee.
The report also refers to an application submitted by the petitioner’s counsel that contained a copy of this newspaper’s report mentioning a statement of PTI’s Central Finance Secretary Siraj Ahmed for requisitioning bank statements of the four employees who were authorised by the its central finance board to receive donations from within Pakistan and abroad.
“He also insisted on summoning Mr Siraj Ahmed, Central Finance Secretary,” it says, but adds that probing into personal accounts of the employees was beyond the scope of the scrutiny committee’s terms of reference and a judgement of the Supreme Court handed down in the Hanif Abbasi case.
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2022