Monday October 03, 2022

Funding case: PTI disowns its finance secretary’s statement

By Our Correspondent
February 16, 2021

ISLAMABAD: In a significant move, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Monday disowned the recent statement of its central finance secretary, who had confirmed the existence of front accounts of four party employees for receipt of donations from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The employees include PTI central office telephone operator and office helper. The latest change in the PTI stance, arguably, comes in the wake of Prime Minister Imran Khan's statement on Jan 20 in Wana, where he had offered to end secrecy of the foreign funding case, which was subsequently disowned by the PTI lawyer.

During the ECP scrutiny committee meeting, the PTI submitted a written response to the petitioner Akbar S Babar's application, seeking investigation into front accounts of the PTI employees, authorised to collect funds from Pakistan and abroad. He demanded that all the personal front accounts of four PTI employees should be requisitioned from the SBP to ascertain the full scale and scope of the illegal fund raising.

However, in its response, filed by the PTI lawyer Shah Khawar, the party disowned the statement of PTI central finance secretary. On its part, the committee met for a short time and will resume on Tuesday for the DG Law, who chairs the committee meeting, had to attend the ECP business before the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The PTI response states that the ‘respondent does not own such statement made by any of the office-bearers of the party. In the same manner, the referred so-called report by auditors, Ahsan & Ahsan, has already been declared a non-party by this worthy scrutiny committee’.

This sounds quite interesting that while the PTI disowns its own central finance secretary's admission of front accounts and ‘illegal’ funding from the UAE, it does not disown the decision made by the PTI finance board to allow funds collection by the PTI employees in a meeting dated July 1, 2011. The minutes of the meeting are available with this correspondent.

Ahsan & Ahsan audit of the PTI donations was authorised on the written sanction of PTI Chairman Imran Khan on March 9, 2013. The audit report certified all the allegations of the petitioner regarding illegal funding to the PTI. In his statement, the central finance secretary had acknowledged the existence of the special audit report including transfer of funds from the UAE to personal accounts of the PTI employees.

Babar repeatedly asked the scrutiny committee to investigate the private bank accounts of the PTI employees, which he alleged, were illegally used as a front to collect donations. Despite sharing sample evidence, to date, the ECP Scrutiny Committee has made no effort to investigate these accounts, owing to the PTI pressure.

Therefore, the committee continues to keep the PTI records and bank statements secret despite the ECP orders. The records include 23 PTI bank accounts revealed on SBP instructions and mostly kept secret from the ECP under documented PTI pressure.

Talking to the media outside the ECP, the petitioner, which remains pending before the ECP since Nov 2014, Babar said that it is incumbent upon the committee to probe the front accounts of the PTI employees illegally used to collect donations.

He contended the committee's terms of reference (ToRs) was fact finding, whereas instead of probing the facts, the committee had chosen to keep evidence secret, which he claimed, is not only illegal but raises fundamental questions on the transparency of the scrutiny process.

Babar pointed out that the initial Scrutiny Report filed after 28/29 months was straight away rejected by the ECP on August 27, 2020. A report prepared in secrecy without even authenticating the evidence or probing leads will remain merely an attempt to cover up facts. “This will not be allowed even if it meant seeking the intervention of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The ECP is responsible for the committee's conduct. It cannot isolate itself from the lack of transparency and blatant violations of due process by the committee,” he added.

He revealed he had faced death threats and fake cases. Lately, he was offered any post of choice including the Senate chairman post that he declined as the foreign funding case was not for personal but national gains.