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March 13, 2018

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ECP orders report on PTI’s foreign funding in a month

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday ordered the formation of a committee to scrutinise the foreign funding sources of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and furnishing of a report in a month, as it announced its verdict in the case filed in November 2014.

The five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza, announced its verdict in the long-drawn out case in the presence of PTI Finance Secretary Sardar Azhar Tariq and petitioner Akbar S Babar. PTI lawyer Anwar Mansoor was not around.

After developing differences with PTI Chairman Imran Khan over alleged financial irregularities in the PTI funding, Babar had parted ways with him, as the former cricket legend was unwilling to go for a funding audit.

The ECP bench ordered formation of a three-member committee to be headed by the electoral body’s director general (law), Muhammad Arshad, to scrutinise the details pertaining to the party's sources of funding.

As per the ECP verdict, the committee will scrutinise all documents and evidence in the presence of the petitioner, the respondents and their lawyers, and present a report on its findings within a month.

Babar had alleged that nearly three million dollars in illegal foreign funds were collected through two offshore companies, registered under Imran’s signature, and that money was sent through illegal ‘hundi’ (channels) from the Middle East to accounts of PTI employees.

One of the co-founders of PTI also alleged that the foreign accounts used to collect funds were concealed from the annual audit reports submitted to the ECP. Interestingly, Imran challenged the jurisdiction of the commission several times but also recently his party submitted documents in the Commission, seeking probe into foreign funding of PML-N and PPP.

On its part, the PTI avoided submitting the required documents for nearly two years for one reason or the other; first approaching the Supreme Court to challenge the commission’s jurisdiction in the matter and later, challenging the maintainability of the case before the Islamabad High Court.

However, the PTI finally submitted account statements and documents detailing the funding it received from foreign sources over the past seven years to the Election Commission late last year following a series of warnings, issued by the electoral body.

Babar claims that the 3 million dollars is the tip of the iceberg with regards to financial irregularities in handling of foreign funds. "I wonder, if everything is fine and transparent, why has Imran been running away from accountability at the Election Commission," he said while talking to The News.

The order read out by CEC Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza stated that the first meeting of the ECP Scrutiny Committee would be held on March 19, 2018 and it would finalise its report within one month of its formation.

Talking to the media, the petitioner and founding member of PTI Babar welcomed the formation of the ECP Scrutiny Committee and termed it a major development to hold PTI and its leadership accountable for breaching the trust of the people. He said he was confident that the scrutiny would lead to major disclosures on how PTI raised illegal and undocumented funds from abroad leading to the accountability of all those responsible for it.

He hoped that after full disclosure of the massive corruption in PTI accounts, all those responsible for managing PTI accounts including from the Chairman down to the members of its Finance Committee would be banned for life for holding any office in any political party of Pakistan.

Babar said he has patiently pursued the foreign funding case despite all the hurdles created by PTI to avoid scrutiny of its accounts. He hoped the PTI would not challenge the decision of the ECP. Babar said Imran Khan’s admission of PTI MPAs selling their souls for around Rs40 million is also an admission of his failure as a leader.

He hoped that after full disclosure of the massive corruption in PTI accounts, all those responsible for managing PTI accounts including from the Chairman down to the members of its Finance Committee would be banned for life for holding any office in any political party of Pakistan.

Babar said he has patiently pursued the foreign funding case despite all the hurdles created by PTI to avoid scrutiny of its accounts. He hoped the PTI would not challenge the decision of the ECP. Babar said Imran Khan’s admission of PTI MPAs selling their souls for around Rs40 million is also an admission of his failure as a leader.

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