In a decision that deeply discredits the PTI and its mantra of being a party determined to fight corruption, a three-member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan has unanimously ruled that...
In a decision that deeply discredits the PTI and its mantra of being a party determined to fight corruption, a three-member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan has unanimously ruled that the party has been guilty of receiving prohibited funding – from local companies as well as foreign nationals and foreign companies. At the end of a case that took nearly eight years to reach its conclusion, with the PTI moving petition after petition over the years to somehow make it go away, the verdict that has finally emerged is a victory for Akbar S Babar, the man who had initiated the case way back in 2014. More importantly, the verdict damages the PTI’s pristine image, despite the party’s attempt to paint it otherwise. The charge-sheet of sorts that the ECP verdict has given includes details such as the PTI having accepted donations from 34 foreign nationals; having disowned the ownership of 13 bank accounts that SBP records show were operated by PTI members; and having had "full knowledge" of the accounts. The ECP has given a show-cause notice to the PTI. There was already a build-up of much suspense the past few days, especially after the explosive deep-dive report filed by British journalist Simon Clark for Financial Times: detailing the extent to which foreign funds were sent to the PTI by Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi. The more details that emerged, the murkier the whole episode seemed to be, something that is reflected in the final verdict handed on Tuesday.
In what happens next, there are a number of scenarios that can play out. First, it is now on the federal government to consider its legal options in moving the Supreme Court for the dissolution of the PTI after it has been ascertained that the party did indeed receive prohibited funding; this would be as per Pakistani law, particularly the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002 and Article17(3) of the constitution. There is also the not-so-small matter of Imran Khan having submitted a false Nomination Form I – which goes directly to the heart of the ‘sadiq and ameen’ clause in the constitution. The PTI, meanwhile, is sure to challenge the verdict and it seems it will be filing two petitions against the ECP – one against its foreign funding verdict and one for contempt of court proceedings. The party has already started on the spin it has now turned into an art form: claiming victory after the verdict, and also asking the ECP to probe the PML-N and the PP for similar transgressions. The party’s recent use of conspiracy narratives has worked in its favour and it will not go down this easily, especially as the ECP verdict entails some very serious consequences – including dissolution of the party and disqualification of Imran Khan.
The coming days thus may just see further visits to the higher courts, as well as debates over what the ECP verdict can possibly lead to. The matter of a lifetime ban or disqualification has already been debated over the years – especially after Nawaz Sharif’s case. While it is impossible to try and analyse what the apex court may do, one thing is certain: the PDM may finally have a trump card over ‘Teflon Khan’. Given the PDM’s recent moves, it is however uncertain whether it will even be able to use this to its advantage. For Imran and his party, the ghost of 2017’s disqualification of Nawaz Sharif over an undeclared iqama may just be a haunting they cannot afford.