ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which had given a ‘last chance’ to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) early this month to submit its reply to the commission’s show cause notice in the prohibited funding case will resume its hearing on Monday (today).
The notice had been issued last month after the ECP ruled on Aug 2 that PTI had received funding from ‘prohibited sources’.
The order documented millions of dollars from, among other sources, offshore companies and foreign nationals, and apparent concealment of several accounts by the PTI leadership, including its chairman Imran Khan. The notice was issued as the Political Parties Order 2002 required that before taking punitive action against any party believed to be receiving illegal funds, a ‘show cause notice’ has to be issued to the party.
Since the issuance of the ‘show cause notice’, PTI has repeatedly sought more time to file its reply.
At the previous hearing, September 19 was set as the last date for filing PTI’s reply and to conclude hearing of their arguments.
Once the proceedings of the show cause notice concludes, the ECP will decide about confiscation of foreign/prohibited funds and/or take action against Mr Khan for filing false certificates that may includehis disqualification.
While the notice is being heard and expected to conclude this month, an FIA inquiry into his party accounts in the light of the ECP findings continues at a brisk speed.
Notices under Section 160 of criminal procedure code and other relevant laws were issued to a number of PTI leaders, accused of operating fake/Benami accounts identified by PTI Chairman Imran Khan himself in his written submission before the ECP on March 14, 2022. The PTI leaders include former governors Shah Farman and Imran Ismail, former speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser and Qasim Suri, besides Dr Seema Zia and Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed among others.
Notices have been issued to Mr Khan and party secretary general Asad Umer for submission of records. Notices under Section 160 of the CrPC have also been issued to PTI Central Finance Board members Aamer Memood Kiani, Yunus Ali Raza, Sardar Azhar Tariq, and finance adviser Siraj Ahmed.
Statements are being recorded of those who operated the ‘secret accounts’ of the PTI.
Investigations revealed that the PTI chief withdrew Rs8 million (each time Rs4m) during March 2013 from a PTI account in an Islamabad branch of a bank. Evidence also indicated that Mr Suri withdrew Rs2.1m in six transactions from PTI’s account in a Quetta branch of another bank.
Nine other PTI leaders, who withdrew huge amounts from such accounts are being investigated, but their names have not been made public. On July 23, 2013, an amount of Rs1.5m was transferred to PTI secretary general’s account in the Zamzama branch of a bank in Karachi.
The FIA also started investigating alleged misuse of funds being collected through a website www.namanzoor.com. An inquiry (No. 744/2022) was registered at the FIA’s CCRC Islamabad, in this regard.
The administrators of website are employees of M/s Tiles Mountain (CEO Chaudry M Iqbal, IT Minister of AJK government). On Sept 13, after obtaining search warrants, an FIA team seized digital equipment from Saifullah Khan Niazi including mobile phones, laptops and USBs for forensic analysis.
Mutual Legal Assistance requests have been sent to obtain record/information of PTI foreign donors and PTI owned companies registered in the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.
Besides the $2.12 million foreign funding from an offshore company “Wootton Cricket Limited” and documented in the PTI accounts revealed through the State Bank of Pakistan by the ECP, FIA investigations have revealed another major foreign funding to the tune of $1.2m from the same company. This includes $625,000 routed through the ‘Insaf Trust’, registered and operated by PTI chief’s friend Tariq Shafi and another amount of $575,000 routed through his personal account in Karachi to the PTI.
The money was used to fund PTI’s 2013 election media campaign and other election expenses. FIA has traced three accounts opened by Tariq Shafi in the name of “The Insaf Trust”
So far, a total of $3.2m of foreign funding was received by the PTI through “Wootton Cricket Limited” alone, besides the funds being collected from the companies in the US, Canada, Australia, Finland and Norway.
During the course of investigations, sources reveal, the FIA identified more accounts utilised by the PTI that remain concealed from the ECP.
One such account is titled “PTI Media Centre” with a total transaction of more than Rs96m to date. The account was opened and operated by former federal minister and PTI Sindh chapter president Ali Zaidi, Javed Umar (PTI Karachi region finance secretary), Bilal Ahmed Ghaffar (PTI Karachi division president), Arsalan Faisal Mirza (PTI Sindh chapter additional secretary finance) — all current signatories — besides Sindh MPA Khurram Sher Zaman (then PTI Karachi president and previous signatory) and others.
Another account in a bank in Karachi titled “PTI SG Secretariat”, also concealed from the ECP, had a total turnover of Rs29m. The account was opened on the written request of President Dr Arif Alvi. Former governor Imran Ismail, Firdous Shamim Naqvi and Samar Ali Khan are the account holders.
The FIA also discovered three accounts titled “The Insaf Trust” in a bank in Lahore. Tariq Shafi (Chairman) along with Ashiq Hussain Qureshi (deputy chairman since deceased), Hamid Zaman (general secretary), Manzoor Ahmad Chaudhry (trustee), and Mubbashir Ahmed (trustee) who got this trust registered. An amount of $624,990 was credited in foreign currency account of “Insaf Trust” by Wootton Cricket Limited. An amount equivalent to Rs61,186,521 was then transferred to Pakistani rupee account of “The Insaf Trust”. Subsequently amounts were transferred to account titled “Communication Spot” (Rs36m) and Group M (Rs25m). These two companies provided communication services to the PTI.
The FIA investigation further revealed that Insaf Trust used to receive foreign donations to the tune of $625,000 from an offshore company (Wootton Cricket Limited), which then funded PTI’s media campaign. All these transactions were kept hidden from the ECP.
Another PTI account in Lahore, which was opened on Oct 8, 2010 and is still active, had a total credit turnover of Rs501.63m, and debit turnover of Rs493.6m.
A PTI leader when contacted for comment insisted that the party had done nothing illegal and had transparently managed its funds.
He said unlike the two other major political parties facing foreign funding cases, the PTI had submitted all the required details, including lists of donors to the ECP.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2022