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January 22, 2021

Foreign funding case: Opposition accepts PM’s challenge

Top Story

January 22, 2021

Foreign funding case: Opposition accepts PM’s challenge

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The opposition parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Thursday accepted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s challenge of holding public hearing into the foreign funding case.

The PPP already issued a statement in this regard a day earlier. PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique while talking to media here on Thursday said that the PML-N has no objection to the direct coverage of the foreign funding case in which the PTI was hiding behind the stay orders and their lawyers made different excuses.

“The sit-in is part of the PDM’s plan. Now the prime minister remembers that there should be live coverage of the foreign funding case, which has been pending for the last six years,” he added.

Khawaja Saad Rafique further said that the accountability process has been badly exposed as accountability was only for the opposition. The present government was taking political revenge in the name of accountability.

He said that only in Pakistan all accountability was for the opposition. He added that the opposition could not fall because it was already on the ground. Meanwhile, theElection Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said Thursday that the foreign funding case is a very important and sensitive one and decision on merit is in the national interest and that the scrutiny committee cannot hold its proceedings in public.The ECP spokesperson said that the committee was taking action on the foreign funding case. “Unnecessary comments are being made by various quarters in this regard. Therefore, the ECP appeals to refrain from making unnecessary and unsubstantiated comments so that the ECP can decide on it unilaterally and expeditiously,” he contended.

He emphasised that it was also important to clarify here that the case was already being heard before the parties in the ECP and the media and other concerned persons and institutions were present during the hearing.

“The scrutiny committee has the authority or position of a JIT. It cannot be conducted in public otherwise the committee will have difficulty in carrying out its work. The procedure of the committee is that the complainant and the accused present their stand on various issues and the scrutiny committee reviews it and after the completion of the proceedings, the committee will formulate its comprehensive recommendations on each point/issue and present it to the commission,” he explained.

The commission, he noted, would provide these recommendations to both the parties in an open hearing and would decide on the merit soon after hearing the arguments of the parties. “The Commission assures that it will decide the case on merit without any fear or pressure,” he maintained.

However, reacting to the ECP's statement, the petitioner and PTI founding member Akbar S Babar alleged that the Scrutiny Committee has completely failed to perform its duties credibly, transparently, and in accordance with the ToRs. “These concerns have been validated by the ECP in its order dated August 27, 2020 when it rejected the committee's report of August 17, 2020 by stating ‘that the committee neither scrutinised the record nor evaluated the evidence from the documents’.

“Despite clear indictment of the committee's performance, it was again given an opportunity to conduct and conclude scrutiny of PTI foreign funding as soon as possible. Unfortunately, in the period between August 27 and January 20, 2020, the committee refused course correction as per law and the scrutiny as per ToRs. As an example when again requested to share PTI accounts and other financial documents with the petitioner, the committee flatly refused under documented PTI pressure,” he claimed.

He also insisted that the committee in its last meeting even reneged on its written commitment to validate or otherwise the evidence downloaded from the US Department of Justice regarding illegal funding from two US companies registered under written instructions of Imran Khan. Instead of addressing the genuine concerns of the petitioner on lack of transparency, the committee chose to walk out which in itself is unprecedented.

“The ECP claims that the Scrutiny Committee is just like a JIT. This must be the only JIT of its kind that is neither independent nor fair nor proactive to investigate and validate evidence. Therefore, only way forward for the case is for the ECP to remand all documents from the committee and conduct independent inquiry under its direct supervision and in full public view if it is serious in coming to credible conclusions,” he said.