ISLAMABAD: As the Sup­reme Court resumes the hearing of the 2017 Faizabad sit-in on Nov 1, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday said the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was not involved in “anti-state activities or terrorism”.

According to a report furnished before the apex court, the TLP did not receive prohibited foreign funding either. Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, a three-judge bench will take up a set of nine review petitions in which the petitioners had expressed their willingness to withdraw their challenges to a ruling on the Faizabad sit-in.

On Sept 26, the Supreme Court sought fresh disclosures in writing from anyone regarding the 20-day-long protest by TLP that had brought twin cities to a halt.

In a three-page reply before the Supreme Court, the ECP said it had issued notices to the interior ministry, the Nati­onal Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) as well as other agencies for submission of comprehensive reports regar­ding the involvement of TLP in any anti-state activities.

After examining their respective reports, the ECP concluded that the party was not involved in any terrorist activities and was not proscribed.

“Therefore the commission was of the view that the respondent party, the TLP, was not involved in any anti-state activity or terrorism. Hence the commission disposed of its inquiry,” the report said.

In its judgment of Feb 6, 2019, the apex court highlighted that under Section 211 of the Elections Act 2017 and Rules 161(2) of the Election Rule 2017, political parties were required to furnish to the commission the list of contributors who donated or contributed an amount equal to or more than Rs100,000 to the political party for its election campaign expenses.

The judgement had regretted that the ECP confided that the TLP did not account for its funds as well as the election expenses, but surprisingly professed its helplessness because the law according to the commission was “cosmetic.”

‘Source of funding’

Regarding the scrutiny of the source of funding, the report said, the commission issued a notice to the head of the TLP.

After hearing the party, the commission decided to entrust the scrutiny of the consolidated statements of accounts, assets and liabilities of the TLP to a scrutiny committee, which concluded that it had no reason to hold that “such a small amount to the tune of Rs1,586,324 could be received through prohibited foreign funding since for a party like the TLP such amount was peanuts”.

Had it been dubious, the party could have suppressed such a small amo­unt quite easily, the ECP said, adding the TLP could have also “avoi­ded its deposit in the account but it was not done, so there being no evidence to the contrary, such a meagre am­o­unt cannot be ducked as having being received through prohibited funding”.

Subsequently, notice issued on Nov 11, 2018, was withdrawn since the party was duly accounted for, the commission said.

The ECP submitted that the directions of the court had been complied with in letter and spirit, adding the commission was cognisant of its duties and functions and therefore it did not subscribe to the view of one of the representatives of the ECP during the hearing regarding the word used “cosmetic” for the election laws.

“The commission shall always act as a constitutional forum in the performance of its authority,” the report said.

Likewise, Pemra also furnished a detailed report before the court that all the news and current affairs of the TV channels had been advised to comply with the provisions and Clause 8 of the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct 2015 and instructions or directives regarding the coverage of the Faizabad dharna.

The report also expl­ained that due to non-compliance by the TV channels and constant live coverage of the security operation, which could endanger the lives of the security personnel, the regulatory body in exercise of its authority had “suspended or off aired all news and current affairs of the TV channels with immediate effect”.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2023

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