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ECP rejects PTI’s plea to keep its funding record secret

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Tuesday ordered access to the party's entire record and bank statements acquired through the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in July 2018.

January 19, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Putting aside the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s objections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Tuesday ordered access to the party's entire record and bank statements acquired through the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in July 2018.

Earlier, the ECP’s Scrutiny Committee had been keeping the record secret since July as the PTI had objected to sharing the documents with the Foreign Funding Case (FFC) petitioner Akbar S. Babar — a founding member of the party — who demanded for access to these papers. The forum had also rejected the plea of clubbing together all the foreign funding cases.

The documents to be made public include all those sought by the ECP through the SBP in its letter dated July 3, 2018, and the following: a list of all bank accounts maintained by PTI anywhere in Pakistan from 2009 to 2013, with date-wise details of transactions, country-wise list of all fund transfer to the PTI accounts from abroad during 2009 to 2013 separately for each financial year, including names/particulars of remitters, and monthly bank statements of all the accounts maintained/operated by PTI in Pakistan and abroad for each financial year during this period.

When the ECP resumed case hearing on Tuesday, the latest PTI lawyer and former Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansur Khan, who is the 9th counsel since the case was filed in November 2014, sought two weeks to review the scrutiny committee report as he had been reappointed to the case only two days back. Earlier Shah Khawar represented PTI in the case. The ECP set February 1 as the next hearing date. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja also ordered that PTI documents kept secret to-date would be shared with the petitioner as soon as a written request is made by the petitioner.

The petitioner’s lawyer Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah was critical of the scrutiny committee for keeping critical documents of the report classified and secret. He read out the pages of the report where the committee recommended keeping all documents acquired through the SBP classified and secret, and questioned committee's approach towards the task assigned to it. However, before he could further comment on the report, the CEC made it clear that no portion of the report would be kept secret.

The CEC maintained that the scrutiny committee had completed its work, submitted its final report, and case is now before the ECP. He directed Shah to submit his detailed analysis of the report before the ECP for deliberations.

On PTI's demand of clubbing all similar cases, Shah contented that the PTI demand is a preposterous attempt to avoid accountability and scrutiny on yet another frivolous ground, and added the applicant is making a bizarre argument that unless all offenders (say murderers) are tried together, there is a violation of fundamental rights.

On PTI’s request to keep the scrutiny committee secret, the order reads, “we are astonished as to how we can pass such an order when report submitted before us has become a public document. Therefore, being not convincing, application stands rejected”.

While on the PTI application to club all similar cases together, the order states, “Mr. Farukh Habib, though not a party to in the instant case and is on watching brief, at the end appears and requests the Commission to take up identical matters of PPP and PMLN with the instant matter wherein the scrutiny committee has almost completed its scrutiny process is awaited”.

Therefore, instead of acceding to the PTI demand of clubbing all the cases, the ECP directed the scrutiny committee to submit progress report on other similar cases within ten days.

Later, talking to the media outside the ECP, the petitioner Akbar S. Babar the termed the ECP decision historic, saying the scrutiny committee report had documented all his allegations of funding from foreign companies, foreigners, and concealment of local and foreign accounts.

He pointed out the report documents that at least Rs836,897,508 and $ 1.6 million collected domestically have no source and details. Similarly, about $2.1 million was illegally collected from a foreign company titled ‘Wootton Cricket Limited, Dubai, and about $50,000 from Bristol Engineering Services LLC, Dubai.

Babar said the list is long and includes billions of rupees and millions of dollars of illegal funding. He continued this is a merely a tip of the iceberg and that when the secret documents acquired through the State Bank of Pakistan and accounts of four PTI employees authorized by the PTI finance board with the approval of the PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Secretary General Dr. Arif Alvi would come to light, details would shatter myths.

He regretted that documents were kept secret by the Scrutiny Committee on the ‘Curse and Evil of Jobbery' that the Quad-e-Azam referred to his much proclaimed speech of August 11, 1947. He said he has no grudge against Prime Minister Imran Khan as he (Akbar) is fighting for Pakistan as our national security was threatened by keeping records of illegal funding of the ruling party secret. He said now that the case is back before the ECP after a gap of almost four years, the case would soon reach its logical conclusion.

APP adds: Talking to media persons, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib, meanwhile, said that the PTI was the sole political party that attached importance to transparency in the funds collection process.

He said Akbar S. Babar was apparently on the payroll of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and had been fully exposed by the findings of scrutiny committee.

It was, in fact, the storm in a tea cup as according to page 81 of the committee's report. Akbar S. Babar could not produce any document or evidence, which could be presented in any court of law, he added.

The minister said Babar used to claim that the PTI was being funded from India and Israel, but he could not present any proof in that regard.

Similarly, he said, PMLN leader Maryam Safdar harped on the same allegation outside the ECP many times, but she faced embarrassment when it was proved wrong as per the scrutiny committee's report.

The PTI was running its affairs in a transparent manner and the opposition's accusations about its funds collection process proved false, he added.

The PTI, he said, was a party which was equally supported by Pakistanis both at home and abroad. Habib asked Babar to apologise to the overseas Pakistanis for hurting their sentiments by levelling baseless allegations.

The minister challenged Maryam Safdar and Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to disclose the details of their parties' accounts. The PMLN should tell the nation who were Bhoon Das and Shujat Azeem and how many amounts they had deposited in its accounts, he remarked.

Likewise, Bilawal also had to divulge give details about an account of Rs350 million, he added. Similarly, he said, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUIF should also disclose as to how he had received funding from Libya. The minister requested the ECP to activate the scrutiny committee as soon as possible so that funding sources of all other parties, including the PPP and the PMLN should also be scrutinised.

The ECP should resolve the issue as per the decision of Supreme Court, he added.

Habib expressed the hope that the ECP would soon investigate the funding of PPP and PMLN. He said there was mention of Walton Cricket Ground, but there was nothing unusual as the friendly cricket match was played between Pakistani nationals and the money was transferred through the banking channel.