ISLAMABAD: Conceding that the law prohibits collecting funds from foreign nationals, the PTI’s lawyer in the foreign funding case argued on Tuesday that the party’s agents were responsible for any illegal funding.

Continuing his arguments in the foreign funding case against PTI before a three-member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), defence counsel Anwar Mansoor said the agents had clear instructions to collect funds under the Political Parties Order (PPO) of 2002, and therefore they would be responsible for any violations, if proven.

The PTI lawyer said that if the party had collected funding illegally, it could be forfeited. However, he clarified that the ECP had no jurisdiction to dissolve the party.

He said there was a difference between foreign funding and prohibited funding, pointing out that when a state funded a political party, it was called foreign funding.

Party shifts blame onto agents for any prohibited funding; election commission rejects plea to suspend PTI dissidents’ membership

Mr Mansoor, presenting his arguments in response to the ECP’s scrutiny committee report, asked whether the funds sent by an overseas Pakistani could be termed “foreign funding”.

The lawyer contended that a “false narrative” was being created that the PTI was being run on foreign funds. “Several political parties have not shown their funding, but they are openly holding rallies,” he said, without specifying any party.

He insisted that funds coming from Pakistanis residing abroad did not fall under foreign funding.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja heads the three-member ECP bench hearing the case. The last hearing was held on April 27, when the PTI refused to continue arguments. It argued that the April 25 order of the intra-court appeal suspending the 30-day deadline directive to the ECP to decide the case also meant that all foreign funding cases should be clubbed together and heard and decided simultaneously.

However, the election commission rejected the plea, after which the PTI sought more time to make further arguments.

This was the third day of PTI’s arguments that were limited to the legal aspects of the case. The party has yet to argue against the findings of the scrutiny committee report regarding foreign and prohibited funding from foreign nationals, including Indians, and foreign companies, and concealing accounts from the ECP.

The PTI lawyer emphasised that all parties should be treated equally. To this, the CEC stated that scrutiny of political financing was an important task of the ECP. He said its political finance wing had recently been strengthened and augmented to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities.

He said the ECP had scrutinised accounts of more than 100 political parties and that questions about financing 17 political parties are being processed.

Mr Mansoor, the PTI lawyer, read out the US Foreign Registration Act that demands the registration of agents designated to collect donations by foreign political parties in the United States.

He said the funding collected in the United States was according to US law and if any prohibited funding was received, the responsibility rested with the agent.

He admitted that PTI had been funded by companies registered abroad but advised the ECP that the maximum action it could undertake was to confiscate prohibited funding.

When an ECP member inquired that the PPO 2002 stated that receipt of funds from any foreign nationals put the party in question as a “foreign-aided political party”, the PTI lawyer said he would address the issue later.

Talking to the reporters outside the ECP, the petitioner and PTI founding member, Akbar S. Babar, criticised the recent statements made by PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

He said Mr Khan’s statements were tantamount to undermining the constitutional bodies, including the judiciary, the ECP and the establishment.

Dissidents’ membership

Meanwhile, the ECP on Tuesday rejected a request made by the PTI to suspend the membership of its dissident lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly.

When PTI counsel Azhar Siddique sought the suspension of 25 PTI MPAs in Punjab, a member of the ECP bench simply asked, “Under which law?”

Advocate Faisal Hussain Chaudhry of the PTI also endorsed the view that dissidents’ membership should be suspended.

The ECP will hear arguments on the plea seeking disqualification of 20 dissident members of the National Assembly today (Wednesday) and the 25 members of the Punjab Assembly on May 13.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2022

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