ISLAMABAD: The Election Com­mission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) plea to club together all foreign funding cases before deciding the party’s foreign funding case.

The decision was announced by a three-member bench of the ECP headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja during a hearing of the PTI foreign funding case.

At the previous hearing on April 19, the PTI sought three days — from April 27 to 29 — to conclude its arguments.

However, instead of continuing with his arguments on Wednesday, PTI’s lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan read out an Islamabad High Court (IHC) order passed on Monday that relaxed the 30-day deadline set to decide the foreign funding case and asked the ECP to carry out scrutiny of all parties without any discrimination.

Mr Khan claimed the IHC had ordered that all foreign funding cases must be heard simultaneously and, therefore, he refused to make arguments on Wednesday.

However, the CEC insisted that the IHC order had made no such determination and noted that the PTI’s foreign funding case had already been delayed for almost eight years and thus demanded an early conclusion.

He said hearings on other cases were in progress and a detailed report would be presented before the IHC on May 17.

During the hearing, the commission was also asked to wait for the scrutiny committee’s reports on foreign funding cases against the PML-N and PPP before proceeding further.

At this, an ECP member from Balochistan asked where the IHC order had bound the commission to wait for reports of the scrutiny committee.

The PTI lawyer’s applications against the PML-N and PPP funding had been submitted in 2017. “The commission should have immediately sent the matter to the scrutiny committee five years ago,” he said.

However, CEC Raja assured Mr Khan, PTI’s lawyer, that all three cases were being heard. He then asked the lawyer to give his arguments on the present case.

But Mr Khan refused to do so and insisted that the commission should first bring other cases on a par with the PTI case and demanded a level playing field.

On Mr Khan’s complaint that PTI’s financial documents were provided to other parties but other parties’ financial documents were not given for perusal to his client, the CEC said he had ordered the provision of other parties’ documents to the PTI.

The chief election commissioner said three foreign funding cases against the PTI, PML-N and PPP were pending before the ECP.

‘65,040 hours, no justice’

However, petitioner Akbar S. Babar’s lawyer Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah strongly objected to fresh attempts by the PTI to further delay final arguments under the pretext of the IHC order.

He said the petitioner was the aggrieved party in this case, as he was being denied fair treatment under one pretext or another.

The PTI should not be allowed to misconstrue the IHC order, he said and argued that the party had already abused the law to delay the case, which the ECP itself described as “historic abuse of law” in its Oct 10, 2019 order.

The case had already been delayed for nearly seven years and six months, 2,710 days or 65,040 hours, he said, adding that 180 hearings had been held so far and the PTI had filed nine writ petitions to delay or scuttle the case.

Upon PTI’s refusal to further argue the case, the ECP allowed more time to the party and set the next hearing for May 10.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2022

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