ISLAMABAD: In a significant move, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday directed its staff to list the “foreign funding” case against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf as “prohibited funding” from now on.

The development came after Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, who was heading an ECP bench hearing the case, agreed with PTI lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan’s stance that the case should be listed as prohibited funding, and not foreign funding.

The CEC, however, pointed out that the PTI itself had been using the term foreign funding for the case. “Your clients have been using the term ‘foreign funding’ on media,” Mr Raja told the PTI’s counsel.

Anwar Khan, while concluding his arguments in the case, said the Elections Act 2017 allowed receiving funds from overseas Pakistanis, but prohibited procuring funds from anyone else other than them.

“Branding the case as foreign funding is a misnomer. The correct name should be prohibited funding case,” he argued.

However, Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah, the counsel for petitioner Akbar S. Babar, contended that the PPO 2002 clearly classified a party funded by foreigners or foreign companies as a “foreign-aided political party”. Even the terms of reference of the ECP scrutiny committee mentioned it as “PTI foreign funding case”, he said.

Speaking about the scrutiny committee’s report that revealed account details of the PTI, Anwar Khan said he would not say that the committee had “mala fide” intentions.

“Even if there was illicit funding in the party’s accounts, it has been returned. The [management] of the funds is given to a policy agent. If funding is received from sources other than the ones mentioned in the agreement, then it is the responsibility of the agent,” he explained. “Maybe the committee probing the accounts did not have the required knowledge about the matter.”

At the conclusion, the PTI lawyer thanked the CEC and other members of the ECP for their patient hearing and allowing him a full opportunity to present his arguments.

The case was adjourned till June 20 when Ahmad Hassan Shah would counter the final arguments of PTI’s lawyer.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2022

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