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April 9, 2021

ECP body resumes scrutiny of PTI accounts

National

April 9, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan Scrutiny Committee met on Thursday and resumed scrutiny of PTI accounts while the petitioner Akbar S Babar’s lawyer contended that the authenticity of every document should be verified during its proceedings, not after that.

He claimed that the document, containing details of PTI funding, presented before the committee for scrutiny was fake as it was neither signed nor authenticated by the PTI auditor. Babar feared that under the cover of electoral reforms, the party funding law could be changed.

The committee met here at the Election Commission Secretariat and the petitioner’s lawyer Ahmad Hassan Shah reiterated that to date, the committee had not challenged in writing single documentary evidence presented before it by the petitioner, it was learnt.

To this, sources said, the committee responded that the authenticity would be decided in the final report. Shah challenged it by reiterating that the authenticity of each and every document before the committee had to be verified during the course of the scrutiny and not after as directed by the ECP in its order of August 27, 2010. He said the committee’s ToR clearly stipulates that the scrutiny has to be conducted before both parties. He said it was the primary function of the committee to authenticate and verify the documents during the scrutiny process to ensure only credible evidence is scrutinized and credible conclusions are drawn.

He said without perusal of official PTI bank statements requisitioned by the State Bank of Pakistan to cross-check the entries on donations presented before him, the scrutiny was an exercise in futility.

The committee was constituted in March 2018 to scrutinise PTI accounts in one month but the process still goes on. The scrutiny committee met against the backdrop of the ECP reserved judgment on the complaint of the petitioner against the committee for keeping PTI financial documents secret including all 23 PTI bank statements revealed on the instructions of the State Bank of Pakistan.

The ECP reserved its order on the complaint on April 6 and was expected to announce it within the next few days. It is believed that the order was expected to have a major impact on the scrutiny process and course of the PTI foreign funding case pending before the Commission since November 2014.

Besides the petitioner, the two sides were represented by Ahmad Hassan Shah who was assisted by Badar Iqbal Chaudhry. The PTI was represented by Khawar Shah, his associate and PTI’s finance team.

At the very outset, Ahmad Hassan Shah came up with a complaint that despite the refusal of the committee to allow perusal of PTI financial documents, particularly the PTI bank statements that remain secret, an impression was created that the petitioner has been allowed to peruse PTI documents. He made it clear that this was false for a few pages of a PTI document were there that appeared fake as they do not carry any certification by any auditor. He complained that his comments and objections were not fully recorded in the committee order sheets. It was decided that the petitioner’s lawyer would document each and every concern on the PTI documents presented before it and present a text version to the committee which would be incorporated in the committee order sheets. The committee will now meet on April 19.

Later, talking to the media outside the ECP office, Babar said: “We are being asked to ratify fake and forged documents. This is unacceptable as without access to PTI bank statements revealed through the State Bank of Pakistan to cross-check the documents presented by the PTI, the scrutiny process would be a mere attempt to rubberstamp facts.”

He was hopeful that the ECP would conclusively end the matter of refusing access to official PTI accounts to ensure full transparency in the scrutiny process. He said not a single PTI foreign bank account statement has been revealed despite repeated orders while the PTI has even refused to scrutinize the fifth year of scrutiny or 2013 in clear violation of the ToR. Babar expressed concern over the recent attempts of the prime minister to bring electoral reforms on a war footing. He said why the rush is as the next Senate elections are three years away and the next national elections another 30 months away. He said the last electoral reforms act was passed in 2017 after hundred plus meetings of the committee concerned.

The PTI, he claimed, even then tried to change the political funding laws to make funding secret and beyond scrutiny but due to limited numbers, it could not push through such an amendment. The parliamentary numbers have changed since. He said if Premier Imran Khan was serious about electoral reforms, all he has to do is to prosecute those who masterminded and executed the stealing of the Daska by-election. He warned if the proposed electoral reforms package was a mere cover to change political funding laws to alter the course of the foreign funding case, it would be resisted by all legal and political means.