ISLAMABAD: The Islam­abad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday constituted a larger bench to hear Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) petition challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) verdict in the prohibited funding case.

However, the court declined PTI’s request to suspend the ECP decision immediately.

Acting Chief Justice Aamer Farooq took up the petition and after hearing preliminary arguments, constituted the larger bench to hear the matter. The larger bench consists of Justice Farooq, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Babar Sattar.

Further hearing on the matter has been adjourned till August 18.

The counsel for the PTI told the court that the Supreme Court made it clear in the Hanif Abbasi case that the federal government could not take action against political parties. According to the petition, the matter related to PTI’s funding was examined by the Supreme Court. “Those legal issues were decided by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and in light of the dictum (legal principles or remarks made by judges that do not affect the outcome of the case) and ratio (judge’s ruling on a point of law, and not just a statement of the law) laid down by the Supreme Court the matter was referred back to the ECP for scrutiny of the accounts of all the political parties, including the PTI. Sadly, only PTI was targeted.”

The petitioner claimed that the case against the PTI pertained to an allegation of receiving “funds from prohibited source”. The PTI in its petition argued: “Prohibited source of fund as provided under Article 6(3) of the Political Parties Order 2002 are contributions and donations received from foreign government or multinational or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association…”

“The party explained and reconciled each and every account through a financial expert orally as also by submitting a written financial summary, reconciling each and every transaction and, explaining all amounts received with its reconciliation with the audited accounts,” the petition said. “However, in complete disregard to all the submissions and without giving any reasoning for such disregard, the respondent [ECP] passed the impugned fact-finding report,” it added.

The ECP was incomplete, the petition pointed out, “in the absence of the total number of members as defined in the Constitution and deficient representation from all provinces? If so, does it not disenfranchise the provincial representation on the ECP as envisaged by the Constitution of Pakistan permitting manipulation and outside political interference in the work of the ECP.”

The long-awaited decision in the funding case, which had been filed by PTI’s founding member Akbar S. Babar in November 2014, was announced on August 2.

The PTI had received millions of dollars from 351 foreign companies, 34 nationals, disowned 13 party accounts that senior PTI leaders opened and operated, the ECP declared in its ruling. The commission also issued a notice to the party for forfeiture of prohibited funds and the matter was subsequently forwarded to the federal government for action.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2022

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