High court reserved verdict on January 11; ECP maintains cannot overturn earlier ruling
After reserving the verdict in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) petition against the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) regarding the prohibited funding case last month, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) is all set to announce it tomorrow (Thursday).
In August 2022, the poll organising authority issued a show-cause notice to the PTI concerning the prohibited funding case. The former ruling party had challenged the notice in the IHC.
Earlier this month, a larger bench of IHC — comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, Justice Miangul Hassan and Justice Babar Sattar — had reserved its verdict on a petition against the decision of the electoral authority on January 11.
During the hearings, the court had observed that the ECP’s responsibility was merely to do what the Constitution permitted — which was limited to the confiscation of funds.
While the ECP during the hearing claimed that it had no power to change its decision, the court had observed that should the PTI present in the court satisfactory evidence — proving the legitimacy of the funds — the amount would not be confiscated.
The PTI counsel had argued during that hearing that the ECP had declared PTI a “foreign-aided” party and had rejected the declaration of PTI chief Imran Khan false.
“Political parties’ finances are looked after by a chartered accountant,” he argued, “the ECP has targeted PTI.”
The chief justice had said that the ECP had not made any declaration in its report, “the decision of the ECP is sometimes called an order, sometimes a report and sometimes just an opinion. In my opinion, this was a fact-finding report,” he said.
However, the ECP’s legal representative insisted that it was not just a report but a decision.
“The ECP could not have issued a show-cause notice without giving a decision,” he said. To which the chief justice said: "Are you afraid that Imran Khan will be disqualified on this issue? The ECP will not make any declaration in this show-cause notice, nor will take criminal action against Khan. Its authority extends only to the extent of confiscation of funds.”
Moreover, the court in the previous hearing had also criticised the ECP for taking the matter to the federal government, as doing so had led to a number of cases being registered against PTI by the FIA.
Now, if the court rules in favour of PTI, the notice will be returned and the cases against the party will be withdrawn. It is also likely that the court will advise the electoral body to reassess the matter.
The PTI on August 10 last year challenged the ECP ruling in the IHC, seeking annulment of the order in the prohibited funding case.
In his petition filed with the IHC, PTI Additional Secretary-General Omar Ayub asked the court to not only nullify the August 2 ruling, but also revoke the ECP's show-cause notice sent to PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
The petitioner said he was "grossly aggrieved" by the fact-finding report — which revealed that the PTI had obtained funds from foreign sources — and demanded that it be declared "perverse, incorrect and in excess of authority and jurisdiction".
In his petition, Ayub also asked the court to "declare that any action suggested by the ECP is beyond its authority and that no action can be taken on the basis of a fact-finding report".
The PTI also made the ECP a party in the case.
On August 2, 2022, the ECP, in a unanimous verdict, announced that the PTI received prohibited funding. The case was earlier referred to as the "foreign funding" case, but later the election commission accepted the PTI's plea to refer to it as the "prohibited funding" case.
The commission found that donations were taken from America, Australia, Canada and the UAE.
The PTI received funds from 34 individuals and 351 businesses including companies, the ECP verdict stated.
Thirteen unknown accounts also came to light, said the commission in the verdict, adding that hiding accounts are a "violation" of Article 17 of the Constitution.
The funds were also in violation of Article 6 of the Political Parties Act.
Moreover, the ECP found that Khan submitted a false Nomination Form I and that the affidavit provided regarding party accounts was also not authentic.