Saturday June 15, 2024

Prohibited funding case: PTI takes yet another U-turn before ECP

The PTI moved the ECP and sought cross examination of witnesses in the eight-year-old prohibited funding case

By Mumtaz Alvi
December 21, 2022
The ECP building in Islamabad. The News/File
The ECP building in Islamabad. The News/File

ISLAMABAD: Taking a 180-degree turn, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has now moved the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and sought cross examination of witnesses in the eight-year-old prohibited funding case on which the electoral body bench has reserved its judgement. 

The latest stance taken by PTI before the ECP bench is in total contrast to its earlier stance for the last eight years before the ECP that no witness can be called in the case as the hearing is not adversarial but inquisitorial and that the ECP is not a court of law.

During scrutiny of PTI accounts before the Scrutiny Committee as well as the Election Commission when the petitioner and PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar had demanded cross examination of key witnesses, the PTI vehemently opposed it in writing and the ECP also refused to allow it as well.

PTI filed a fresh application to cross examine witnesses in the foreign funding case during hearing of the show-cause notice issued to it after the ECP order of August 2, 2022.

PTI lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan urged that he may be allowed to cross examine witnesses including bank managers, who furnished PTI bank statements on the instructions of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). “The bank managers should be asked how they prepared PTI bank statements and how these bank statements were received from the State Bank of Pakistan. The ECP has the power to requisition any individual,” he contended.

He again challenged the show-cause notice and termed it illegal. On the contrary, the legal representative of the ECP contended that the process of investigations has been completed and PTI was part of it before the Scrutiny Committee for four years, and before the ECP for eight years and not once demanded cross examination of witnesses.

In fact, he pointed out it opposed cross examination of witnesses all these years terming the process inquisitorial and not adversarial that denied any such inquiry. “Now the PTI must prove the fact findings of the ECP order of August 2 with evidence before the final order is passed. PTI never challenged the authenticity of accounts received from the State Bank of Pakistan before the Scrutiny Committee or the ECP. PTI application is not maintainable as it was given full opportunity to submit its defence before the Scrutiny Committee for four years. The investigative part of the case is closed and documented, and PTI should focus on proving that the findings detailed in the August order are incorrect based on documentary evidence,” he argued.

The ECP reserved judgment on the latest PTI application to be announced on the next date of hearing.

The August 02 order had documented PTI funding from illegal sources including from foreigners and foreign offshore companies. The order listed foreigners as well as foreign companies that donated funds to PTI against the law. The order also documents ‘willful’ concealment of accounts by PTI.

It documented receipt of illegal funding to the tune of $279,821 in its $ account & Rs3,581,186 from Canada, $2.12 million from Wootton Cricket Limited, Cayman Registered Offshore Company, £792, 265 from a UK registered company, $49, 965 M/s Bristol Engineering Services LLC, UAE based company, $100,000 Zurich, Switzerland based entity, $549,000. From a US registered company LLC 6160, $1,976, 500 from another US registered company LLC 5975. Illegal funds transferred from PTI Canada to the tune of $279, 821.

The order stated that PTI disowned the ownership of 13 accounts and under reported in the certificates submitted before the ECP signed by the PTI Chairman Imran Khan and that ‘all these accounts come under the category of illegitimate/fake accounts (benami accounts)’ operated by top PTI leadership including Imran Khan, Sardar Azhar Tariq Khan, Col (R) Younas Ali Raza, Saifullah Niazi, Mian Mehmòod Rashid, Mian Mohammad Farooq, Asad Qaisar, Shah Farman, Imran Shehzad, Imran Ismail, Samar Ali Khan, Muhammad Najeeb Haroon, Muhammad Ashfaq, Mohsin Wadud, Ms. Seema Zia, and Qasim Suri’.

The show-cause notice was issued soon after the August 02 verdict of the ECP in the foreign funding case as the Political Parties Order 2002 required that before taking punitive action against any party found receiving illegal funds, a ‘Show Cause Notice’ has to be issued to the party. However, since the issuance of the notice, PTI has repeatedly sought more time to file its reply. It is understood that once the proceedings of the notice conclude, the ECP will decide on confiscation of foreign/prohibited funds and/or take action against PTI Chairman Imran Khan for filling false certificates that may include his disqualification.