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January 21, 2021

PTI funding: Akbar not happy with scrutiny process

Top Story

January 21, 2021

ISLAMABAD: In a rare move, the Election Commission’s scrutiny committee Wednesday walked out of the scrutiny meeting and did not return when its process was challenged by petitioner Akbar S Babar, who had moved the electoral body in Nov 2014 against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

He alleged glaring irregularity in PTI’s foreign funding, a charge now ruling party denies outright and says its accounts are duly audited every year and are transparent. The Scrutiny Committee meeting, hence, ended on a stormy note when the three members of the committee walked out when confronted with evidence challenging the transparency of the scrutiny process by the petitioner.

The petitioner’s lawyer Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah assisted by Badar Iqbal Chaudhery during the last meeting, had demanded that the documents downloaded from the US Department of Justice about illegal funding from two companies registered under Imran Khan’s written instructions should be authenticated as per August 27, 2020 instructions of the ECP.

To this, the committee had in writing indicated that they would pass an order Wednesday on this count. However, instead of deciding the authenticity or otherwise of the US documents, the committee asked to continue to scrutiny process of fake PTI documents.

The petitioner’s lawyer challenged the decision as without authenticating the documents, the credibility of the scrutiny process was questionable and would remain an eyewash. He pointed out that the authenticating evidence or fact finding is the primary responsibility of the Committee.

He contended how anyone could consider an audit of accounts transparent when all 23 PTI bank accounts that were mostly concealed from the ECP and were only revealed on SBP instructions were being kept secret. Besides not a single bank statement of six PTI international bank statements has been shared with the petitioner or allowed to peruse. He said no auditor worth a name would accept an audit where bank statements are concealed.

The lawyer reiterated that the committee has failed to conduct transparent scrutiny by any standards and continued to stretch the process without any credibility.

Akbar S Babar also argued that the ECP orders of August 27, 2020 to authenticate each and every evidence was not being followed by the committee.

He said, “We have already expressed our serious reservations about the transparency of the scrutiny process through written statements filed on March 5, 2020 and August 13, 2020. The scrutiny process would remain an eyewash as long as the committee did not follow ECP instructions of August 27, 2020 in letter and spirit”.

Instead of replying to this contention, the committee members stormed out of the meeting.

Afterwards, talking to the media, the petitioner said that the committee repeatedly failed to conduct transparent scrutiny process and added when the committee admitted in writing that it could not share or allow perusal of the PTI bank statements by the petitioner under PTI pressure what good can come out of a process where the party under scrutiny is dictating terms to the Committee conducting its scrutiny.

He insisted that the only way forward for the ECP was to remand all the documents from the committee and conduct day to day hearings before the media and civil society to conclude the case.

Meanwhile, reacting to the unusual episode, the Election Commission Media Wing issued a statement, which said ‘after today's meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan/Scrutiny Committee, Akbar S Babar/petitioner tried to give the impression during a media talk outside the Election Commission that the Scrutiny Committee is biased and is the exact opposite.

The scrutiny committee is working with utmost diligence and honesty as per the ToRs set by it. The meeting of the scrutiny committee started at 2:40am today. The committee commenced scrutiny of the documents submitted by both the parties to the committee in accordance with the legal procedure. But in the form of questions, the committee started discussing the answers they had given to PTI’, it noted.

The ECP statement said that the petitioner and his lawyer repeatedly tried to obstruct the work of the committee and put pressure on the committee. The committee unanimously took this stand and assured the parties that the committee would make its recommendations without any pressure.

The committee clarified that it would not succumb to the pressure of the parties and would present its recommendations to the Election Commission in an impartial and transparent manner. The Scrutiny Committee will still formulate its recommendations in the light of merit and evidence as per its defined ToRs and submit them to the Election Commission.