ECP declassifies key documents in PTI foreign funding case

Published January 19, 2022
ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib speaks to reporters on Tuesday.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib speaks to reporters on Tuesday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday ordered the declassification of all critical documents linked to the foreign funding case against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

The documents were part of the ECP scrutiny committee report, released a couple of weeks ago, which had been kept secret and were not released alongside the report when it was made public.

The documents being made public will include all the papers sought by the ECP through the state of Pakistan, in its letter dated July 3, 2018.

The ECP scrutiny committee had kept the record secret as the PTI objected to sharing the documents with Akbar S. Babar, a PTI founding member and petitioner in the case.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja passed the order when the counsel for the petitioner contended that certain critical portions of the report had been kept secret and his client was being denied access to them.

Records to be made public include list and monthly bank statements of all PTI accounts, country-wise list of all funds received

Describing the scrutiny committee’s report as “dishonest”, Mr Babar’s counsel Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah said meaningful scrutiny was not possible unless critical pieces of evidence were made public, in line with an earlier order of the commission.

The CEC directed that no part of the report should be kept confidential and the whole report should be provided to the petitioner.

The documents that have been declassified include: “(1) list of all bank accounts maintained by PTI anywhere in Pakistan from 2009 to 2013, with date-wise details of transactions, (2) Country-wise list of all fund transfer to the PTI accounts from abroad from 2009 to 2013 separately for each financial year, including names/particulars of remitters, and (3) monthly bank statements of all the accounts maintained/operated by PTI in Pakistan and abroad for each financial year i.e. 2009 to 2013.”

The CEC said that after the scrutiny committee completed its work and submitted its final report, the matter was now before the ECP. He then requested Mr Shah to submit his detailed analysis of the report before the ECP so it could deliberate on the matter.

Addressing the PTI’s demand to club all similar cases, the petitioner’s counsel contented that it was a “prosperous attempt to avoid accountability and scrutiny on more frivolous grounds”.

He said, “The applicant is making the bizarre argument that unless all offenders are tried together, there is a violation of fundamental rights. This line of argument is shameful to say the least.”

The PTI, which has often been accused by the petitioner of using delaying tactics, once again changed its lawyer. Instead of Shah Khawar, former attorney general Anwar Mansoor appeared before the ECP bench and sought time to go through the report.

The CEC directed PTI counsel to file a written reply by the next date of hearing and adjourned the hearing till February 1.

Talking to reporters after the hearing, Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib said PTI was the only political party that attaches any importance to transparency in the fund-collection process. He alleged that Akbar S. Babar was on the payroll of PML-N and had been exposed by the findings of the scrutiny committee.

The minister said that according to Page 81 of this report, Mr Babar could not produce any document or evidence, which could be presented in any court of law. He termed the matter “a storm in a teacup”.

Farrukh asked Mr Babar to apologise to the overseas Pakistanis whose sentiments had been hurt by his baseless allegations. The minister also challenged Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to disclose the details of their own parties’ accounts.

In response, Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Shazia Marri said that the so-called transparency of PTI stands exposed in the foreign funding case.

She alleged that the incumbent government was funded by prohibited sources and now, PTI members were lying to the nation, claiming that a few Indians had issued cheques to Imran Khan under the guise of donations for the construction of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.

The petitioner, Mr Babar, told reporters outside the ECP building that the decision on declassification of documents was historic.

He said the report documents that at least Rs836,897,508 and $1.6 million, collected domestically, have no source and details.

Calling it the tip of the iceberg, Mr Babar said the list of illegal funding is quite long and includes billions of rupees and millions of dollars.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2022

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