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Sunday July 14, 2024

Prohibited funding case: ECP rejects PTI plea to cross-examine witnesses

CEC questioned the progress of the case in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and asked what was the IHC’s decision?

By Mumtaz Alvi
March 23, 2023
A representational image of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) building. — Facebook
A representational image of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) building. — Facebook

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Wednesday rejected the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf›s (PTI) application seeking to cross-examine witnesses in the prohibited funding case against it in a verdict reserved earlier.

Moreover, the three-member bench of the Election Commission, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, rejected PTI’s objections over the show-cause notice issued to it by the secretary ECP, and decided to proceed with it. The proceedings have been resumed after a gap of several months.

Under the law, the ECP is mandated to issue a show-cause notice, once it announces a judgment in a related case. Announcing the verdict it reserved on December 20 on PTI’s application, the commission also dismissed the plea for cross-examining the ECP’s scrutiny committee and officers of the concerned banks.

During the course of the hearing Wednesday, the CEC questioned the progress of the case in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and asked what was the IHC’s decision. In response, a PTI lawyer replied that the IHC had directed the ECP to hear the parties.

The CEC, to this, remarked that the ECP had not been stopped from taking action. “Now let’s take this case forward. PTI sought six weeks› times for the arguments and action was taken on August 23. Instead, over six months have passed now,” he noted.

Sikandar Sultan Raja maintained that the time was sought to obtain records from abroad. However, in another bid, PTI counsel filed an application seeking adjournment for two weeks, but the CEC made it clear that two weeks cannot be given, and adjourned the hearing till March 28.

Instead of responding to the show cause notice, PTI had a fresh application demanding cross examination of key witnesses. The fresh demand of cross examining was in total contravention of party’s stated position during eight years of the case, claiming ECP is not a Court of Law and the proceedings can only be inquisitorial and adversarial.

So much so, PTI had opposed the list of witnesses proposed by the petitioner Akbar S Babar that included the party Chairman Imran Khan and other senior leadership. At that time, the ECP Scrutiny Committee had rejected the petitioner’s demand of cross examining witnesses on PTI objections.

The Election Commission in a unanimous judgment in the prohibited funding case, filed by Babar in November 2014, had ruled on August 02 last year that the PTI received prohibited funding and issued a notice to the party asking why the funds should not be confiscated.

In the verdict, the commission noted that the party ‘knowingly and willfully’ received funding from Wootton Cricket Limited, operated by business tycoon Arif Naqvi. The party was a ‘willing recipient’ of prohibited money of $2,121,500.

The ECP said that the party ‘knowingly and willfully’ also received donations from Bristol Engineering Services (a UAE-based company), E-Planet Trustees (a Cayman Islands private registered company), SS Marketing Manchester (a UK-based private company), PTI USA LLC-6160 and PTI USA LLC-5975, which were ‘hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws’.

The judgment said the party had only owned eight accounts before the commission and declared 13 accounts to be unknown. ‘The data obtained from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reveals that all the 13 accounts disowned by the PTI were opened and operated by senior PTI management and leadership at central and provincial level.’