ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday reserved its judgement on a new plea by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) seeking secrecy of documents requisitioned through the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the exclusion of petitioner Akbar S.Babar from the foreign funding case against the party.

The hearing by a bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja started with the PTI seeking yet another adjournment on the plea that its ninth lawyer, Anwar Mansoor Khan, was ill and could not attend the proceedings.

The CEC asked the junior lawyer if Mr Khan had indeed traveled abroad as he had pleaded on March 1 while seeking an extended adjournment. The lawyer feigned ignorance and said he was unaware of that.

The petitioner’s lawyer, Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah, assisted by his associate Badar Iqbal Chaudhry, proceeded with his arguments on the PTI’s fresh plea, reading out order after order of the commission dismissing similar applications, and called it yet another attempt to delay the case.

Scrutiny committee reconstituted to audit PML-N, PPP accounts

He suggested the PTI be fined for the delay and read out portions of an ECP order dated Oct 10, 2019, which called the party’s attempts to prolong the case “historic abuse of law”.

Later, the ECP reserved its judgement on the fresh applications and put off hearing till March 17. Also at the next hearing merits of the foreign funding case will be discussed based on the comments of the two parties on the ECP scrutiny committee’s report shared with them on Jan 4. Judgement in the foreign funding case, which is lingering on for over seven years, is expected to be reserved after the two parties conclude their arguments.

Talking to reporters outside the ECP, the petitioner and PTI founding member, Akbar S. Babar, said the case was in its concluding stages. The country was passing through an alarming situation as the threat of unrest was growing and instead of acting responsibly, the government was adding fuel to fire. The quicker the case was decided on merits and evidence the sooner the situation would be defused, he said. Pakistan was not a banana republic where the whims of one individual could be allowed to prevail, he added.

Mr Babar demanded PM Imran Khan resign, claiming that facts on prohibited and foreign funding had been established.

Also outside the ECP, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib asked the commission to start hearing the foreign funding cases against opposition parties — the PML-N and PPP.

“We have once again requested the election commission in writing that the PML-N and PPP’s foreign funding cases should be heard as soon as possible,” he said while talking to reporters.

He dismissed as baseless propaganda that the PTI received illegal foreign funding. He instead asked the PML-N to disclose the source of the Rs650 million it had received. He alleged that the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl chief had taken funds from Libya.

Scrutiny committee

In a related development, the ECP reconstituted the scrutiny committee to audit the accounts of the PML-N and PPP.

ECP Director General (Law) Muhammad Arshad will continue to head the panel, while other members included Additional Admin Secretary Manzoor Akhtar Malik, Political Finance Wing Director General Masood Akhtar Sherwani and Khurram Raza Qureshi from the office of the Auditor General of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2022

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