In meeting with ECP officials, ruling coalition urges early announcement of PTI funding case verdict
PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Friday that a delegation comprising members of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan met Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) officials and urged them to release the verdict in the prohibited funding case against the PTI at the earliest in line with the electoral watchdog’s “constitutional responsibility”.
“We told the ECP today that it is their responsibility towards the people of Pakistan, their constitutional responsibility, to release this report (about the PTI’s funds) and take action accordingly,” Abbasi said while speaking to the media after meeting ECP members, including Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, in Islamabad.
The PML-N leader said the delegation also conveyed to the ECP that it was the people’s right that the report was shared with them.
The prohibited funding case, previously called the foreign funding case, was filed by Akbar S Babar and has been pending since Nov 14, 2014. Babar, who was a founding member of the PTI but is no longer associated with it, had alleged serious financial irregularities in the party’s funding from Pakistan and abroad.
The ECP had reserved its verdict in the case last month.
Along similar lines, Abbasi also highlighted the delay in the conclusion of the case in his presser today and said “justice merits immediate action, according to the law and due process, whenever there’s an issue.”
In the meeting with ECP members, Abbasi continued, “We said that the election law in the country states that any party taking funding from a foreigner has to declare who gave it the money, when and how much.
“And no party has the authority to take funding from a foreign company.”
He questioned whether Imran had “sold his decisions” by taking money from foreign entities.
The former prime minister said Babar had presented “clear evidence” in the case eight years ago, when it had first surfaced.
Since then, the PTI tried to hamper the case by all means, he alleged, and accused the party of exerting “government pressure” on the ECP during its tenure, as well as “political pressure” following its ouster.
He further said the record submitted to the ECP thus far in the case had not been submitted by the PTI but obtained via the State Bank of Pakistan.
“And the status of accounts [whose record has been submitted] is also before you. The PTI denied having any knowledge of the accounts when the party president was running these accounts,” Abbasi added.
Abbasi claimed there were at least two companies operating as “foreign agents” in the US whose chairpersons’ name was Imran Khan.
“Any money coming to these companies is public record and you can see from whom and how much Imran took,” he said, questioning whether taking money in such a manner was in line with Pakistan’s laws.
“You cannot take money from a company because by doing so, you become its agent. And then you don’t decide in the country’s interest but in the interest of companies and individuals behind them,” he explained. “This is why our country’s law doesn’t allow any political party to take money from a foreign company.”
In light of this, “we told the ECP that the record is very clear and now you have to decide”, Abbasi said. “Isn’t it people’s right to know from whom a big political party has been taking money, how much has it been taking and when?”
He then went on to claim that a large sum of money related to the case was still abroad in personal accounts and reiterated that the PTI had used all tactics to prevent the case from being taken up by the ECP.
The PML-N leader said the PTI and Imran’s actions over the past eight years made it evident that “they took money from companies [abroad] and used it for politics”.
“And when you use someone’s money for politics, you have to pay a price. And it is people who pay this price,” Abbasi said.
He added that had Imran and the PTI not been guilty, they would have presented the entire record the very day the allegations were levelled and asked the ECP to decide the matter.
But “for eight years, you employed all tactics to keep the record hidden from people, to deceive the ECP and stop their process,” Abbasi said, adding that Imran continues to “attack” the ECP today as “he knows the reality of the foreign funding” case.
In reply to a question, Abbasi reiterated his call for the release of the ECP’s verdict.
“If a political party is doing politics after taking money from Jewish agents or anyone else — we don’t know who is behind these companies — people must know from where Imran has been getting money,” he commented. “This is my issue, this is your issue, this is the people’s issue.”
When asked whether the ECP had given a timeframe for releasing the verdict, Abbasi said the electoral watchdog had not specified any time.
“They said they are working on it, that there were hurdles in the past and that they will decide the matter and let the people know as it is their constitutional responsibility.”
Financial Times report
During the media talk, Abbasi also referred to a Financial Times report that investigated how the PTI accrued funds through cricket matches organised under Wootton Cricket Ltd, a company owned by Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi.
The report titled ‘The strange case of the cricket match that helped fund Imran Khan’s political rise’ was published today and said: “Naqvi transferred three instalments directly to the PTI in 2013 adding up to a total of $2.12m”.
Alluding to the report, Abbasi said Naqvi organised cricket matches in London and collected millions from people in the name of philanthropic causes.
It was on record that $2.2m, which amounted to Rs550m today, was transferred from Wootton Cricket Ltd’s accounts to those of Imran and the PTI, Abbasi said, highlighting that the report was published by Financial Times, a news outlet that could be taken to court over misreporting.
Earlier, Climate Minister and PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman also shared the report on Twitter.
And later in the day, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted: “Could it get more damning? The charade of self-proclaimed honesty & righteousness has been busted by the Financial Times story that details the flow of foreign funding into PTI bank accounts. Imran Niazi is a bunch of massive contradictions, lies & hypocrisy.”
In the evening, the prime minister dared Imran to file a defamation suit against Financial Times “for publishing an indicting article”.
“If he doesn’t & I am sure he wouldn’t, it will prove one more time how brazenly he is lying & cheating the people of Pakistan.”
PTI leaders defend party
PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry, however, defended his party and said that Naqvi had submitted an affidavit to the ECP, stating that “all funding is legal”.
He submitted the same affidavit to the PTI,“ he said and added, “If there is any illegality, it’s btw Naqvi n UK authorities.”
He said the report also “blatantly claims” that $20m was paid as a bribe by Naqvi to the Sharifs.
Meanwhile, PTI information secretary Farrukh Habib also clarified that money from Wootton Cricket Ltd. came into PTI’s account through “legitimate channels”.
At a press conference in Lahore, he said that the record of the money had been submitted to the ECP. “A cricket match was played in England and a political fundraiser was held in Dubai. Arif Naqvi collected the money from overseas Pakistanis and sent it back to the country via Wootton Cricket Ltd.
“The account [in which the money came] is declared in the ECP and we have each and every record in the audit,” the former minister said.
But, he went on, “let’s talk about the 20m pounds that Nawaz and Shehbaz received in 2017. There is a report in the Financial Times on that too. Someone ask them where are the 20m pounds they took from Arif Naqvi for K-Electric.
“The FT report reveals that Arif Naqvi hosted a dinner too for Nawaz Sharif in Switzerland. Why aren’t you talking about that?”
Countering Abbasi’s claims, Habib said that in the US, a political party had to get itself registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to indulge in any kind of political lobbying or fundraising.
“PTI is registered as an LLC there and after every six months, we report all our activities to the agencies. So far, no problems have been raised, despite the law being extremely strict,” he said.
The PTI leader added that the people who sent their money to the party, including Arif Naqvi, have submitted their affidavits to the ECP, assuring that they raised the money through legitimate channels.
“So there is no point of objection,” he asserted.
“However, I am challenging Shehbaz, Maryam, [Asif Ali] Zardari and Bilawal [Bhutto-Zardari] today. Put all your [financial] records in front of the media. Let’s bring a third party of the world’s best auditors. They will investigate your and our accounts and we will see who is truthful.
“Are you ready for the challenge?” Habib said.