ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday decided against de-seating 20 dissident Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNAs, dismissing disqualification references against them sent by the party.

In its unanimous decision, a three-member bench of the ECP headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja held that Article 63-A of the Constitution dealing with lawmakers’ disqualification on the grounds of defection did not apply to the 20 PTI MNAs who had jumped ship ahead of the no-confidence move last month.

During the Wednesday’s hearing, the ECP also dismissed the PTI’s application for submitting more evidence and recordings of the statements of PTI leaders, including Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Asad Umar, submitted by Advocate Faisal Fareed, counsel for the PTI chairman.

Advocate Fareed argued that the declaration had been made based on information and material available with the party head.

He further argued that video clips, transcripts and statements of its witnesses were material and substantial pieces of evidence, which would help the ECP reach a correct conclusion.

He contended that the election commission had vast powers under the Constitution and law to summon any record or to call any witness for a fair and just conclusion.

However, the counsel for the respondents argued that the provisions of Article 63-A of the Constitution entailed penal consequences and therefore should be strictly construed.

The production of documents at this stage was an afterthought, he said and described the evidence as fabricated and concocted.

Barrister Gohar Khan, counsel for dissident PTI MNA Noor Alam Khan, argued that in response to the PTI show-cause notice, Mr Alam made it clear that he had neither left the PTI nor the parliamentary party.

He said Mr Alam attended the meeting on April 3 as per the party’s directives to ensure attendance. After this, the party didn’t issue any other directive restricting him from attending its meetings.

When asked if Mr Alam cast a vote on the day of voting on the no-confidence motion, the counsel responded in the negative.

Foreign funding case

Meanwhile, PTI continued its final arguments on Wednesday in the foreign funding case being heard by the ECP.

PTI lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan explained that two US-based companies registered for fund collection and other purposes, including influencing US policy, were registered with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) according to US law.

He said the PTI policy of collecting donations was according to the Political Parties Order of 2002 and this was made clear to its agents in the United States and the treasurer of the PTI US company.

He said the PTI had fired one of its agents, Dr Nasrullah, for allowing funding and collecting donations from prohibited sources. When asked by an ECP member if the contract between the PTI and its treasurer of the PTI US company was terminated for not following PTI’s policy on fundraising, the PTI counsel answered in the affirmative.

This was the fourth day of final PTI arguments limited to the legal aspects of the case. The PTI has yet to argue against the findings of the scrutiny committee report that foreign and prohibited funding from foreign nationals, including Indians, foreign companies, and concealment of accounts from the ECP.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2022

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