PTI files petition in IHC against committee examining foreign funding case

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday petitioned the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to declare as null and void the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) March 12 decision ordering the formation of a committee to scrutinise the minutiae of the PTI’s sources of funding.

Dissident founder member of the PTI and the petitioner in the case, Akbar S. Babar, had filed the case before the ECP in 2014 after he developed differences with Imran Khan over internal corruption and abuse of laws governing political funding.

The petitioner had alleged that nearly $3 million in illegal foreign funds were collected through two offshore companies, registered under Khan’s name, and that money was sent through illegal ‘hundi’ channels from the Middle East to accounts of PTI employees.

He had also alleged that the foreign accounts used to collect funds were concealed from the annual audit reports submitted to the ECP.

As per the ECP’s March 12 verdict, a three-member committee was to scrutinise all documents and evidence in the presence of the petitioner, the respondents and their lawyers. The scrutiny committee, headed by the Director General Law of ECP and comprising two auditors from the defence establishment, was formed on April 3, with a mandate to complete the scrutiny process in one month.

The committee could not make any significant progress during the month as the PTI failed to submit financial documents, particularly bank statements of its accounts, sought by the committee.

The PTI had also objected to the terms of reference (ToRs) of the committee and an alleged breach of secrecy, with the media reporting the scrutiny process.

Dawn reported today that the PTI had filed an application in the ECP seeking secrecy of the scrutiny of its foreign funding, after which the ECP had issued notices to the petitioner and Akbar S. Babar for a May 28 hearing on the application.

Khan, in his petition today, asked the court to declare the ECP’s March 12 verdict ordering the formation of a committee null and void, and to also declare as illegal the subsequent proceedings of the scrutiny committee.

The petition claims that the ECP’s March 12 order “suffers from material irregularities”, which is the “outcome of the ignorance of the law on the subject”.

It also claimed that the “impugned order is based on malafide intentions and is not passed in a transparent manner”.

The petition said that although the IHC had ordered the ECP to keep account details to itself, the committee formed by the ECP “didn’t bother [with] the orders passed by the IHC and shared all confidential documents with Respondent No. 2 (Babar). It is further noteworthy that Respondent No. 2 (Babar) made public all the proceedings of the committee via his social media accounts”.

The petition also claimed that Babar had participated in the proceedings of the committee “which is a sheer violation of the SC guidelines”, and alleged that he “is not free from malice or ill will, and just aimed to harass the petitioner (Imran Khan)” after his expulsion from the party.

The petition quoted an SC judgement on a previous case ‘Hanif Abbasi vs Imran Khan and others’, which stated that “it is the duty of the SC to scrutinise accounts of political parties on the touchstone of Article 63 of the PPO read in the light of article 17(3) of the Constitution. In this behalf, the ECP must act transparently, fairly and justly, without discrimination among different political parties seeking election symbols to contest the election to the constitutional legislatures of Pakistan. For undertaking such scrutiny, it shall be reasonable for the ECP to examine the accounts of political parties within five years of the objected accounts of that party having been published in official gazette.”

The petition also observed that two members of the first committee had distanced themselves from it “due to personal reasons”, after which it was dissolved. A second committee was constituted, the ToRs of which are “violative of the observation of the SC, as well as the IHC order”.

“This power of assessing and deciding whether a political party has received contributions or donations from any sources prohibited… can be exercised by the ECP on its own motion based upon the facts available in the public domain or revealed by information provided to it, subject to the condition that the information emanates from a credible source, that it is reliable and verifiable and is not a mala fide fabrication meant to harass and prejudice a political party, its leaders or its members,” the petition said.

The petition prayed that the “committee proceedings be declared void, unlawful and without lawful authority against the Constitution and law on the subject in the interest of justice.”

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