ISLAMABAD: With the next hearing of foreign funding case less than a week away, the orders passed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to declassify key documents linked with the case are yet to be implemented, informed sources told Dawn.

During the last hearing of PTI foreign funding case on Jan 18, the ECP had reversed the orders of the scrutiny committee to keep secret some portions of its report, including certified PTI documents and bank statements acquired through the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

A formal written request for access to all enclosures of the scrutiny committee report addressed to the Deputy Director of Law, ECP, had been filed on behalf of the petitioner and PTI’s founding member Akbar S. Babar on Jan 20.

This correspondent has a copy of the written request that bears the stamp of ECP receipt on the same date.

On Jan 18, ECP reversed scrutiny panel’s order to keep key documents secret

The application included a request for early sharing of all the documents at the earliest to enable the petitioner’s lawyers to assist the ECP in the next hearing scheduled for February 1.

Petitioner Akbar S. Babar confirmed that an application for access to all enclosures of the report, including the classified portions, had been filed on January 20. However, he said, the documents had yet to be shared with him.

The Director General (Law) of the ECP, Muhammad Arshad, who also heads the scrutiny committee, was not available for comment.

The secrecy matter was settled when the ECP decided on January 18 that ‘no portion of the scrutiny committee report would be kept secret’.

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

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja had 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.

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

Assuring the petitioner that he would get copies of all the documents on submitting an application, he had asked Mr Shah to submit his analysis of the report before the ECP so it could discuss the matter.

These crucial pieces of evidence had been kept confidential as per the committee’s own desire expressed in its report that stated “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”.

The committee in its report also said it decided that the data emanating from the documents provided by the petitioner and the respondent would be reflected in a non-classified portion of the report, while data obtained by it from the SBP on its own accord would be reported in a classified section so that laws, rules and procedures governing confidentiality of bank accounts and banking information were not violated.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2022

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