ISLAMABAD: The scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has repeatedly expressed its helplessness and inability to get full information about foreign funding to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in its report.
A reading of the findings shows that the committee noted at least a dozen occasions when it was unable to make further observations regarding the transactions in the absence of complete information and the sources of funds.
The forum, which conducted 96 hearings in the case filed by PTI founding member-turned whistle-blower Akbar S Babar in December 2014, had no mandate to force the PTI to share all the details pertaining to its financial transactions.
The committee said it relied on material requisitioned from the State Bank of Pakistan and annual declarations made by the PTI with the ECP. It noted that as it did not have information relating to the US-based bank accounts, it was unable to make any observations on the PTI Limited Liability Companies in the USA.
The committee said that it did not have access to bank statements of accounts that were maintained by Insaf New Zealand. Therefore, it is not in a position to make any further comment on the sources of funds. The same was its conclusion about the transactions in Canada.
It said it tested and measured all the records and evidence presented on the basis of criteria prepared by it for the examination of the information, data and documents. Most of them did not qualify the test of the standard set by it. Consequently, it was unable to make further progress on the basis of evidence and records available to it.
The committee was of the view that the summoning of witnesses was not in line with its terms of reference (TORs) and was beyond its mandate. It said its proceedings are inquisitional and not adversarial. However, it may, as and if it feels necessary, to obtain any record from any quarter as per its TORs.
Akbar S Babar had raised the issue of the alleged illegal, undeclared foreign funding to the PTI under the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002, promulgated by Pervez Musharraf, which was repealed as a result of the enactment of the present Elections Act 2017 after its incorporation in the new law to a large extent. However, the case against the PTI will be decided by the ECP under the PPO, which was in force when the alleged foreign funding was received by the party.
The PPO stopped short of stipulating further action against a political party which is found to have received ‘prohibited’ funds after prescribing that such money would be confiscated in favour of the State.
The prohibited funds include any contribution made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign government, multinational or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association in the definition. The PPO says the political parties may accept contributions and donations from individuals only. It adds that any contribution or donation which is so prohibited will be confiscated in favour of the State in the manner as may be prescribed.
By and large, the same provision features in the Elections Act later when the PPO was repealed. The Elections Act says a contribution or donation includes a contribution or donation made in cash, kind, stocks, transport, fuel and provision of other such facilities; and foreign source will not include an overseas Pakistani holding a National Identity Card for Pakistani expatriates issued by the National Database and Registration Authority.
Section 210 of the Elections Act says a political party will submit to the ECP within 60 days from the close of a financial year a consolidated statement of its accounts audited by a chartered accountant containing annual income and expenses; sources of its funds; and assets and liabilities. It will be accompanied by the report of the chartered accountant with regard to the audit of its accounts and a certificate signed by an office-bearer authorised by the party head stating that no prohibited funds from any source were received by it; and the statement contains its accurate financial position.
However, Section 215 states that a political party enlisted with the ECP, will be eligible to obtain an election symbol for contesting elections for parliament, the provincial assemblies or local government on submission of certificates and statements referred to in Section 210 and other provisions.
In the absence of such certification, including the one pertaining to non-receipt of prohibited funds, the ECP will deny the allotment of the election symbol. And when a party does not have the poll symbol, it cannot obviously take part in any election.
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