ISLAMABAD: Highlighting what he claimed were serious flaws and loopholes in the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) verdict in the prohibited funding case against his party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said on Wednesday the coalition government cannot ban Imran Khan and his party.

He said the federal government would soon be asked to take a vote of confidence, claiming it had lost the trust of its allies.

Addressing a press conference, the former minister said Chief Election Comm­issioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja announced a reserved verdict in the PTI prohibited funding case after meeting leaders of the Pakistan Democratic Movement. The “unconstitutional and illegal” decision was announced at the request of Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, he alleged.

The ECP had ruled on Tuesday that the PTI received millions of dollars from 351 foreign companies and 34 foreign nationals, and sought an explanation as to why the prohibited funds should not be forfeited.

ECP says ‘propaganda’ (against its verdict) has nothing to do with reality

Mr Chaudhry claimed the ECP verdict published on its website was different from the one released to the party and the media, adding the PTI had already filed a reference against the CEC so the commission didn’t have any legal power to send a reference to the federal government.

He further said the party would contest the ECP’s decision, which he declared was in contravention of the law and Constitution, adding the government cannot ban any political party. Highlighting ‘flaws’ in the verdict, he said several locals and dual nationals had been shown as foreign nationals.

Mr Chaudhry said Beenish Faridi was a British-Pakistani, who has recorded a video about it too, yet she was mentioned as a foreign national. He emphasised all the money was deposited through legal channels, adding there was a difference between affidavits and certificates as well as their writing format.

He said Shaukat Khanum Hospital received Rs9 billion annually, but their sources were unknown. However, he added, all of the funds came legally. Fawad Chaudhry further alleged that everyone knew the ruling parties took money from abroad, as the PPP’s accounts for 2014 and 2015 were not verified and millions had been transferred to the accounts of the Sharifs’ employees.

The former minister said slain former premier Benazir Bhutto had accused PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif of taking money from Osama bin Laden to oust her government, adding the cases of PML-N and PPP were also pending with the ECP.

He announced that the PTI was going to challenge the ECP verdict and demand action against the electoral watchdog.

Talking about reports of adding names of PTI leaders to the Exit Control List, Fawad said PTI chief Imran Khan did not go out of the country even once after he was ousted from power through a “foreign-backed conspiracy”. Adding his name to the ECL would serve no purpose as the PTI would continue to fight this “fascism”.

He said the ruling coalition could not go into elections as it was scared of a crushing defeat at the hands of Imran Khan, who was “the most popular leader in the country”. The government launched a campaign against overseas Pakistanis because it was running away from elections.

Later, the PTI women’s wing, headed by Kanwal Shauzab, held a press conference and criticised the ECP verdict.

ECP rebuts ‘propaganda’

Later in the day, the ECP said the claims that the commission issued two verdicts in haste were “misleading and a part of propaganda” by certain individuals.

“It is surprising that some people are trying to find flaws in a verdict being released after eight years,” the ECP said in a statement.

Without naming the PTI, the electoral body dismissed the party’s claims, saying “this propaganda has nothing to do with reality”.

“The commission has given a single decision, which is signed page by page and the same has been released on the official website,” the statement added.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2022

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