Lahore court grants FIA two-day physical remand of PTI leader Hamid Zaman in prohibited funding case

Published October 8, 2022
PTI leader Hamid Zaman appears before a district court in Lahore on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV
PTI leader Hamid Zaman appears before a district court in Lahore on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV

A district court in Lahore on Saturday granted the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) two-day physical remand of Hamid Zaman in connection with the prohibited funding case.

Zaman and other PTI leaders — including Saifullah Nyazee and Tariq Shafi — were arrested on Friday from Lahore.

According to a first information report (FIR) registered against him, both Zaman and Shafi have been accused of being accomplices of Abraaj founder Arif Masood Naqvi.

The FIR alleged that Naqvi had “siphoned off Rs9.1bn from funds of Abraaj Group and its subsidiary companies abroad and funneled to Aman Foundation’s accounts through Foreign Telegraphic Transfers (FTTs) with unexplained money trail.”

It said that Zaman was the general secretary of the Insaf Trust, which the complaint stated was a “bogus trust to give the impression that same is part of PTI”.

He was also one of the characters named in the Election Commission of Pakistan’s verdict in the PTI’s prohibited funding case and was summoned by the FIA several times following the launch of an FIA probe in the basis of the decision, which stated that the party had, in fact, received prohibited funding from 351 foreign companies and 34 foreign nationals.

Earlier today, Zaman was presented before the court of Judicial Magistrate Ghulam Murtaza Virk. During the hearing, the FIA submitted a plea seeking a 14-day physical remand of the PTI leader.

“The remand is required to complete the investigation,” the agency’s prosecutor, Munim Bashir Chaudhry, said.

Here, Zaman’s lawyer Khwaja Haris said that his client never received a notice of inquiry and requested the court to reject FIA’s request.

“I have all the record documents here. Why is FIA even asking for remand,” he asked.

To this, Chaudhry said: “We need answers as to why foreign transactions were made into the Insaf Fund. The suspect is the general secretary and office holder [of the trust].”

Subsequently, the court granted police Zaman’s two-day physical remand and instructed it to present him in court on Monday.

The foreign funding case

Last month, the ECP had issued its verdict in the prohibited funding case — previously referred to as the foreign funding case — against the PTI, which stated that the party did indeed receive prohibited funding.

A three-member ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander (CEC) Sultan Raja had announced the verdict in a case filed by PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar which had been pending since November 14, 2014.

In the verdict, the commission noted that the party “knowingly and willfully” received funding from Wootton Cricket Limited, operated by business tycoon Arif Naqvi. The party was a “willing recipient” of prohibited money of $2,121,500, it said.

The ECP said that the party “knowingly and willfully” also received donations from Bristol Engineering Services (a UAE-based company), E-Planet Trustees (a Cayman Islands private registered company), SS Marketing Manchester (a UK-based private company), PTI USA LLC-6160 and PTI USA LLC-5975 which were “hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws”.

It went on to say that the party also received donations through PTI Canada Corporation and PTI UK Public Limited Company. “From both the companies, the amounts received into its accounts of PTI Pakistan are hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws.

“PTI Pakistan, through fundraising campaigns by PTI USA LLC-6160 and PTI USA LLC-5975, was a recipient of donations from 34 foreign nationals and 351 foreign-based companies. Collection of donations and contributions from foreign nationals and companies are hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws,” it said.

The electoral watchdog also said that the PTI had been found to be a beneficiary of donations made by Romita Shetty, a US-based business woman of Indian-origin which was in violation of the law.

The ECP said the party had only owned eight accounts before the commission and declared 13 accounts to be unknown. “The data obtained from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reveals that all the 13 accounts disowned by the PTI were opened and operated by senior PTI management and leadership at [a] central and provincial level.”

The commission noted that the party also failed to mention three accounts which were also being operated by the party’s senior leadership. Non-disclosure and concealment of 16 bank accounts by the PTI is a “serious lapse” on part of the PTI’s leadership and in violation of Article 17(3) of the Constitution, it said.

Article 17(3) says: “Every political party shall account for the source of its funds in accordance with the law.”

The PTI chairman submitted Form-I for five years (between 2008-2013) which was found to be “grossly inaccurate on the basis of the financial statements obtained by this commission from SBP and other material available on record”.

“Therefore […] the matter falls within the ambit of Article 6(3) of Political Parties Order 2002 (PPO). Hence , the commission directs that a notice may be issued to the respondent party in terms of Rule 6 of the PPO 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 light of this order of the commission, including forwarding the case to the federal government.”

Article 6(3) of the PPO states: “Any contribution made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign government, multinational or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association shall be prohibited and the parties may accept contributions and donations only from individuals.”

In its order, the commission also said that it was “constrained to hold that Imran Khan failed to discharge his obligations as mandated under the Pakistani statutes.”

“Imran Khan, for the five years under review, has filed submissions that were grossly inaccurate and wrong. Even during the course of scrutiny and hearing by this commission, the PTI continued to conceal and withhold complete and full disclosure of [the] source of its funds,” it added.

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