ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to explain the nearly eight-year delay in deciding the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) foreign funding case.

While observing that a case should not be kept pending for such a long period, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah questioned whether all political parties submitted their sources of funding and the ECP scrutinised them every year. The ECP (law) director apprised the court the commission conducted scrutiny of accounts in case of any anomaly. “If the court asks, we will submit a detailed report in this regard,” the official said.

The court was hearing the party’s plea alleging that the ECP by singling out the PTI expedited scrutiny of its fund while showing leniency towards other political parties.

Claiming that there was no delay from its side in the case, PTI counsel Shah Khawar pointed out that the scrutiny committee was formed in two cases, one against the PTI and the other against other political parties.

PTI counsel tells ECP bench parties can receive donations from foreign companies, not foreign nationals

ECP’s counsel told the court that Akbar S. Babar’s complaint against the PTI funding came in 2014, while the complaints against other political parties were filed in 2018 and 2020. Since the complaint against PTI’s funding was older, the ECP intended to decide it before the other cases.

At this, the chief justice said the court had not restrained the ECP from the proceedings in the foreign funding case. Cases need to be prioritized according to their timelines, he said, pointing out that political parties should not have complaints regarding ECP’s proceedings. Having said that, the chief justice said the court would ensure that no party would be discriminated against.

He also noted that the ECP would ask for answers if the accounts of any political party were ‘not transparent’ and if proved the commission should confiscate those accounts.

Further proceedings on the matter were adjourned till May 30.

During his arguments, Anwar Mansoor Khan dwelt at length on the donations received from foreign companies.

He drew a line between “foreign companies” and “multinationals”, arguing that political parties could receive donations from foreign companies as long as the companies were not multinationals. He said Political Parties Order-2002 clearly stated: “Parties may accept contributions and donations only from individuals.” The PPO only barred receipt of any funds or any portion of its funds from “foreign nationals,” he insisted.

Funds received from foreign firms

The foreign companies, which the PTI counsel admitted on Tuesday to have funded the PTI, had been concealed earlier by the PTI in its record submitted before the ECP. The companies were identified from the record requisitioned through the State Bank of Pakistan.

The PTI counsel claimed that the record submitted by the party before the scrutiny committee was “notarized and certified” though the committee later found that no certified records had been submitted.

Anwar Mansoor admitted that the PTI had not submitted details of the funding received in the fiscal year 2013 though the party was in possession of such details. The scrutiny committee record shows that the committee had repeatedly requested the PTI to submit funding details for the year 2013, but the PTI had refused to do so.

The counsel admitted that details of funds received from the PTI registered trusts or companies from Australia and Canada could not be submitted before the ECP as the local laws prohibit.

The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday when the PTI’s chartered accountant would explain funds received from various countries and try to reconcile the same with the PTI bank accounts.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2022

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