The prohibited funding case, formerly known as the foreign funding case, against the PTI is a long and convoluted tale that played out in the ECP, the courts and in the media. However, with the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) verdict that was released earlier today (Tuesday), the matter has reached some semblance of a resolution.
The case was a major thorn in the side of Imran Khan’s party which denies any wrongdoing and maintains the funding was not from prohibited sources.
The case had been pending since November 2014, when founding member Akbar S. Babar — who is no longer affiliated with the PTI — alleged serious financial irregularities in the party’s funding from both Pakistan and abroad.
Here is a timeline of how the case played out.
November 14, 2014: PTI founding member Babar [files a petition] with the ECP, seeking an investigation into “financial malpractices” in the party and accountability of those responsible for it. He also accuses the PTI leadership of disregarding and violating provisions of the Political Parties Order, 2002.
January 14, 2015: The ECP issues a notice to Babar, asking him to appear before it and present evidence supporting his allegations of corruption and embezzlement in the party funds.
April 1, 2015: The ECP asks the PTI to submit details of funds received from abroad. The electoral watchdog also directs ECP officials to scrutinise afresh PTI’s annual statement of assets to ascertain whether or not the party had mentioned funds received from the US.
June 21, 2016: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejects a petition filed by the PTI seeking early disposal of the case.
December 1, 2016: The ECP tells the PTI to submit the documents relating to its foreign funding or face consequences. The chief election commissioner (CEC) also holds the party responsible for delays in proceeding with the case.
March 22, 2017: The ECP adjourns the hearing of the case after reprimanding the party’s counsel for seeking yet another adjournment. The CEC expresses anger and displeasure over the PTI’s move to seek adjournments and terms it “abuse of the law”.
April 3, 2017: The PTI’s counsel finally appears before the ECP, but only to challenge the electoral watchdog’s jurisdiction to hear the matter.
May 8, 2017: The ECP rejects PTI’s plea challenging the commission’s jurisdiction in the case. The CEC fixes May 17 as the date for regular hearings of the case and asks the PTI to produce all financial records, sought by the petitioner, as per its earlier orders.
September 11, 2017: Unhappy with the constant defiance of its orders, the ECP gives the PTI yet another final opportunity to submit financial documents and details of funds received from abroad, as well as the party’s accounts.
September 17, 2017: After months of foot-dragging over the issue, the PTI finally submits details of party accounts and foreign funding received in the last seven years to the ECP. The party’s counsel once again urges the bench not to give details of party accounts to the petitioner.
March 27, 2018: The ECP forms a three-member scrutiny committee to investigate and audit PTI’s accounts and complete the scrutiny within a month. However, the PTI objects to the terms of reference of the committee.
May 9, 2018: The PTI changes its lawyer, as Babar Awan takes over and Anwar Mansoor Khan leaves on health grounds.
May 16, 2018: The PTI files an application with the ECP seeking secrecy of the scrutiny of its foreign funding. Petitioner questions why the PTI is worried about its record if it is clean.
May 30, 2018: The ECP rejects PTI’s appeals to restrain the scrutiny committee and for secrecy of the scrutiny process. In its verdict, the ECP dismisses the party’s objections over the terms of reference and orders the scrutiny committee to continue its work.
October 2, 2018: The PTI’s counsel, Babar Awan, withdraws from representing the party in the case.
October 1, 2019: The ECP reserves its verdict on four applications by the PTI seeking secrecy in the scrutiny process. During the proceedings, the CEC remarks that they “just want to increase the burden of work”.
October 10, 2019: The ECP rejects the PTI’s four applications for secrecy and directs the scrutiny committee to continue its investigation into the case.
November 20, 2019: The ECP orders day-to-day hearings of the case after receiving an application from the opposition.
September 21, 2020: The ECP trashes the report submitted by its scrutiny committee. In its order, the commission says that the report is neither complete nor well-detailed.
January 14, 2021: An alliance of opposition parties decides to march to the ECP office in Islamabad in order to record their protest in front of the electoral body and to demand a quick verdict in the case.
January 20, 2021: As the opposition holds protests and criticises the ECP for delaying its verdict, Imran calls for an open trial and challenges the leadership of all opposition parties to face proceedings too.
February 18, 2021: The PTI releases details of millions of rupees of funds transferred from the United Kingdom to the party’s account this year.
March 16, 2021: The ECP issues notices to PTI and its own scrutiny committee to explain their position over secrecy of scrutiny in the case.
April 9, 2021: Petitioner Babar demands the ECP committee to validate the authenticity of documents presented by the PTI in presence of both the parties during the scrutiny process to make the evidence more credible.
November 30, 2021 The scrutiny committee submits another report to the ECP after a delay of six months from the last deadline.
December 9, 2021: The ECP defers a briefing by its DG (law) on the case because of the absence of one commission member from Balochistan.
January 4: The damning report compiled by the scrutiny committee confirms the PTI received funding from foreign nationals and companies, under-reported funds and concealed a number of its bank accounts.
January 19: The ECP orders the declassification of all critical documents linked to the foreign funding case.
March 2: Petitioner Babar calls out Imran and the PTI for allegedly submitting fake transaction documents in front of the ECP between 2009 and 2013. He calls for putting the PTI chief on notice over violating political funding laws.
April 14: The PTI’s counsel claims that the PPO allows taking funds from any international source unless it’s from a multinational. He also claims that the PTI took no funding from illegal sources and that all funding came through a clean channel.
April 19: ECP bench resumes hearing the foreign funding case, where the PTI counsel claims that foreign funding is lawful and that the PTI has abided by all rules and regulations of keeping their transactions fair.
April 23: The PTI moves the Islamabad High Court seeking the scrutiny of the funds of at least 17 major political parties, including the PML-N and PPP.
May 18: The Islamabad High Court questions the ECP over the eight-year delay in coming to a conclusion and announcing a verdict on the prolonged case. With the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition in power, the government seeks to expedite the foreign funding case against the PTI.
June 15: The PTI counsel’s long request of referring to the case as “prohibited funding” and not “foreign funding” is accepted by the CEC, who orders the ECP to use the new name across the board while addressing the case. That same day, PTI asks ECP to decide all funding cases at once.
June 21: The ECP reserves its verdict on PTI’s foreign funding case, as CEC Raja adds that they want to end pending cases against other political parties too.
July 29: A bombshell report by the Financial Times reveals that tycoon Arif Naqvi organised a charity cricket match, whose proceeds were used to bankroll the PTI. Funds that poured into Wootton Cricket from companies and individuals included money from a UAE government minister who is also a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.
July 30: Imran insists all funds from Arif Naqvi came through banking channels and were disclosed.
August 2: Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja pronounces verdict, finds PTI received prohibited funding and issues show-cause notice to PTI on why the commission shouldn’t seize the funds.