• PML-N demands early decision in matter of prohibited funding
• Farrukh insists his party did nothing wrong

ISLAMABAD: The latest disclosure about funds collected in the name of charity landing in the accounts of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has provided the ruling coalition already actively seeking an early verdict in foreign funding case with even more ammunition.

Talking to reporters after a meeting of a joint delegation of PDM, PPP and MQM with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) officials, central PML-N leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also referred to the 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.

“It is the right of the people of Pakistan to know by taking money from whose agents, PTI has been doing politics in the country,” Mr Abbasi said.

Also, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted that the investigative report of the Financial Times was a serious charge sheet against PTI Chairman Imran Khan. He said the report exposed facts related to transfer of huge funds from prohibited sources into PTI accounts.

A report by Simon Clark — the author of The Key Man, a book exposing dealings of business tycoon Arif Naqvi, published in Financial Times reveals how funds collected through charity cricket matches were used for the rise of PTI.

The report says fees were paid to Wootton Cricket Ltd, which, despite the name, was in fact a Cayman Islands-incorporated company owned by Naqvi and the money was being used to bankroll Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Khan’s political party. Funds poured into Wootton Cricket from companies and individuals, including at least £2mn from a UAE government minister who is also a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.

“Pakistan forbids foreign nationals and companies from funding political parties, but Abraaj emails and internal documents seen by the Financial Times, including a bank statement covering the period between February 28 and May 30 2013 for a Wootton Cricket account in the UAE, show that both companies and foreign nationals as well as citizens of Pakistan sent millions of dollars to Wootton Cricket — before money was transferred from the account to Pakistan for the PTI”, Clark writes.

“Wootton Cricket’s bank statement shows it received $1.3mn on March 14 2013 from Abraaj Investment Management Ltd, the fund management unit of Naqvi’s private equity firm, boosting the account’s previous balance of $5,431. Later the same day, $1.3mn was transferred from the account directly to a PTI bank account in Pakistan. Abraaj expensed the cost to a holding company through which it controlled K-Electric, the power provider to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.

A further $2mn flowed into the Wootton Cricket account in April 2013 from Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family, government minister and chair of Pakistan’s Bank Alfalah, according to the bank statement and a copy of the Swift transfer details.

Mr Abbasi said one point upon that the meeting was held was that the prohibited funding case of PTI has been pending for the last eight years; its decision has been reserved but not being pronounced.

He explained that as per laws, if any political party received funding, it had to declare as to when, how much money it received, while no party was allowed to get funding from any foreign company.

The ex-PM said PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar had provided clear evidence in the case that the PTI pressed in every way to stop the case. “Imran Khan knows the facts of the prohibited funding case, therefore, he attacks the ECP while the scrutiny committee report revealed some facts, more facts will come out when the decision is announced, so Imran Khan is trying to pressure the ECP to stop the decision by hurling abuses and carrying out personal attacks.

He said that if Mr Khan had clean hands, he would have presented records on the first day and said that a decision should be taken and the case would have been decided in six months.

Mr Abbasi maintained that according to the available facts, PTI itself admitted that the accounts operated from outside were not known, there are at least two companies in the US whose chairman’s name was Imran Khan, the money that came to the companies was part of the record.

The records of these accounts, he noted, also contained records of funds received from companies, whether it is in accordance with Pakistan’s law to get funds from companies, funds cannot be obtained from companies as you become their agents by getting funds from them, so funding from any foreign company is not allowed.

“We have requested the Election Commission that it is your constitutional responsibility to come out with this report and take action accordingly, it is the responsibility of the Election Commission to decide the case at the earliest,” he contended.

Abbasi said that ‘if a political party is doing politics by getting money from Jewish agents or doing politics by getting funding from anyone, it is the right of the people to know, this is the issue of all of us’.

Replying to a question, he said the ECP claimed to be working on this case, as there had been various hurdles in this work in the past. “We understand our constitutional responsibilities, we will decide the case and place it before the people,” he quoted the ECP as telling the delegation.

He said the delegation told the ECP that the record was very clear and they had to decide, as courts open in the darkness of night in the country to negate their own judgements.

Mr Abbasi contended that Financial Times reported that Arif Naqvi conducted cricket matches in London for welfare work in the name of charity and received crores of rupees. His company sent more than Rs550 million to the PTI and Imran Khan’s account in Pakistan for which Mr Khan did not give any record to the ECP.

He said the money from prohibited funding was obtained and used for politics in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik had said the entire nation awaited the ECP decision on the PTI prohibited funding case. “We request the ECP to announce the decision on the PTI’s prohibited funding. We will accept, whatever the decision is given in this case,” he said while addressing a news conference along with

Adviser to PM on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira said the constitution did not allow any party to receive funds from a foreign citizen or company. The PTI had received funds from the foreign companies and individuals, he added.

He reiterated the demand that the pending decision on the foreign funding case be announced at the earliest.

Mr Kaira said Mr Khan was criticising the CEC in order to pressurize the ECP and asked if the PTI chief was still considered ‘sadiq and amin’ and his hands were clean.

PTI did nothing wrong: Farrukh

PTI leader Farrukh Habib told a presser in Lahore that the donations received by the PTI did not fall in the ambit of foreign funding. He threw a challenge on PML-N for an audit of records of both the parties by financial experts, claiming that the PTI did nothing wrong.

He said all the funds that the party received from Wootton Cricket Ltd, a Cayman Islands-incorporated company owned by Pakistani businessman Arif Naqvi, were transferred though a bank. “All the records [related to those transactions] are available,” the party’s central deputy information secretary told a press conference after a Financial Times report revealed that Naqvi “transferred three instalments directly to the PTI in 2013 adding up to a total of $2.12m” — which were of foreign origin.

He said there was no case against Mr Naqvi or his Abraaj Group in 2012 and that the businessman had given £20 million to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as “bribes”.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2022

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