• Millions of dollars received from 351 foreign companies, 34 nationals, commission holds
• Party disowned 13 accounts that were opened, operated by senior PTI leaders
• Notice issued to party over forfeiture of prohibited funds; matter forwarded to federal govt for action

ISLAMABAD: Announcing a widely anticipated decision on a petition filed eight years ago against the supposedly dubious sources of funding of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ruled that the party did receive millions of dollars of funds from 351 foreign companies and 34 foreign nationals, including a US-Indian businesswoman, and ordered issuance of a notice to the PTI, seeking an explanation as to why the prohibited funds it received should not be forfeited.

“…the matter falls within the ambit of Article 17(3) of the Constitution of Pakistan, Article 6(3) and Article 2(c)(iii) of PPO, 2002. Hence, the Commission directs that a notice may be issued to the respondent party in terms of Rule-6 of PPR, 2002 as to why the aforementioned prohibited funds may not be confiscated. The office is also directed to initiate any other action under the law, in the light of this order of the Commission, including forwarding the case to the federal government,” stated the verdict that is being interpreted by both the ruling side and the opposition to suit their narratives; the PTI feels it vindicates its stance that it never received foreign funding, but could be a case of prohibited funding, while the government considers the decision a ‘charge sheet’ against ‘crimes’ of the party and its chie f Imran Khan.

The decision was announced by a three-member ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja in a case filed by PTI’s founding member Akbar S. Babar that had been pending since Nov 14, 2014.

About the donation received from Wootton Cricket Club, the order states it appears the “PTI Pakistan knowingly received and accepted donations from a company which was being operated by a business tycoon who was involved in a criminal fraud”. It says the owner of the offshore company, Arif Naqvi, in his affidavit admitted “he voluntarily participated in personally providing and from others, collecting party (PTI) funds, contributions and donations... from within the jurisdiction of UAE”.

The ECP notes the collection of donations by companies and people by any means and for any purpose, other than registered permissible category charities, is prohibited under UAE laws.

“Therefore, the [PTI] was a willing recipient and beneficiary of prohibited money to the tune of $2.12 million funneled to its accounts by Mr Arif Masood Naqvi using Wootton Cricket Limited,” the order reads. It says details of the transactions have not been disclosed by the PTI that has willfully concealed, misstated and misrepresented facts. On the basis of available evidence on record, these transactions are hit by prohibition under Pakistani laws on donation.

It further says examination of record reveals that M/s Bristol Engineering Services LLC, a UAE-based company, transferred $49,965. The PTI received funds into its accounts in the form of donations of $100,000 from a Zurich, Switzerland-based entity operating as E Planet Trustees.

It says the PTI formed companies in the US, Canada and the UK for fundraising purposes. The donations and contributions collected by these companies were transferred to the party accounts in Pakistan. Similarly, the party received funds into its accounts as donations worth $1,741 from S.S. Marketing, a Manchester, UK-based private limited company.

About two limited liability companies (LLCs) registered by the PTI in the US, the ECP order says irrespective of the finer motive, the platform opted by PTI agents was to run the LLCs as non-profit business entities, as distinct entities from charitable organisations to meet the stipulations of the US laws. However, this act is in direct violation of the Pakistani laws (Article 6(3) of PPO 2002) which disallows fund collection from any sources other than “individuals”.

All amounts raised by the LLCs are considered in departure of Article 6(3) of PPO 2002, while it can also not be ignored that the PTI agents, while raising funds, did not discriminate between “individuals” and “entities” and “Pakistani origin Americans and foreign nationals”. To identify and record accurate sources of funds received (donations and contributions) in the US by PTI agents was obligatory as per Article 17. The list of donations available on record illustrates the PTI received and accepted donations from 351 companies and 34 foreign nationals.

The party in contravention of Article 17 of the Constitution failed to disclose and account for the source of funding. It knowingly received and accepted donations from and through US-based companies and foreign nationals, violating the provisions of Article 2(C) (iii) and Article 6(3) of Pakistan Political Order 2002.

The order states the PTI Canada was registered with Corporation Canada under Canada Business Act Part 2 on Oct 23, 2007. As per procedure, it is a federal company having Canada-wide jurisdiction. Such companies must comply with provincial legislation wherever they are operating, register in the province(s) of operation, file an annual return with Corporations Canada every year on the anniversary date of incorporation of the company and hold an annual general meeting of shareholders and directors.

The Canadian Federal Accountability Act (2006) “totally bans contributions by corporations, trade unions and associations to candidates and the nomination contestants of a registered party during an election period”.

It also says the PTI UK is registered as a public limited company in the UK that transferred funds to PTI accounts in Pakistan worth 792,265 pounds. These funds donated by UK-based companies are hit by prohibition contained in Article 6(3) of PP0 2002. Pakistani laws do not permit any type of funding by a Pakistani- or overseas-incorporated company. Therefore, by not making full disclosure, the PTI Pakistan has committed acts of willful concealment, misstatement and mis­representation of facts.

The ECP verdict also says the PTI disowned 13 accounts, but the disclosure made by respective banks through the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for each of the accounts belies the claim. One of the accounts in Lahore was opened and operated by Mian Mehmoodur Rashid, the PTI Lahore president, and another by Mian Mohammad Farooq, the PTI Punjab general secretary.

It said a Bank Islami (KASB) account in Peshawar was opened and operated by former National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser with Shah Farman and lmran Shehzad. Mr Qaiser also operated a Habib bank Limited, Peshawar account with Muhammad Ashfaq and Mohsin Wadud. Two Habib Bank Limited accounts were opened and operated by PTI Sindh President lmran Ismail with Samar Ali Khan and Muhammad Najeeb Haroon. Another Habib Bank Limited account was opened and operated by Mrs Seema Zia of the PTI Sindh Women Wing, with Mrs Roshna. A Bank of Punjab, Quetta account was opened and operated by former National Assembly deputy speaker Qasim Suri with Syed Abdul Wahab and Dawood Khan.

Further providing details of accounts, the order states a KASB, Islamabad account was opened on the request of former premier Khan with the title of ‘PTI Disaster Fund’. The account signatories included Imran Khan, Sardar Azhar Tariq Khan, retired Col Younas Ali Raza and Saifullah Khan Niazi. It also provides details of withdrawals and deposits, and discloses that amounts had been transferred from undeclared accounts to the declared accounts.

The decision also reveals that as per information obtained from respective banks, Rs11.104 million were deposited in the personal accounts of four PTI paid employees, who had been authorised by the party’s Finance Board to receive funds from within and outside Pakistan.

PTI chief Imran Khan has for five successive years (2008-09 to 2012-13) under review and examination, submitted Form-1 and signed a certificate, which is not consistent with the accounting information gathered and compiled on the basis of details obtained from banks through the SBP. The submissions Mr Khan filed were grossly inaccurate and wrong, it added.

The PTI Pakistan has also been found to have received donations by Romita Shetty, a US-based businesswoman of Indian origin. The $13,750 donated by Ms Shetty is hit by prohibition on donations by foreign nationals and in violation of Article 2(C)(iii) of PPO 2002, and Article 6 (3) of PPO 2002.

Through its submission before the ECP, the PTI has accepted ownership of only eight accounts, while it declared 13 more under the category of ‘unknown’ and not pertaining to the party. The data obtained from the SBP reveals that all the 13 accounts disowned by the PTI were opened and operated by senior PTI management and leadership. It also failed to mention and disclose three accounts being operated by senior party leadership. Non-disclosure and concealment of 16 bank accounts is a serious reporting lapse on the part of PTI leadership and in violation of Article 17(3) of the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2022

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