Wednesday September 27, 2023

ECP short of two members, can’t decide funding case: PTI

By Our Correspondent
April 20, 2022
The ECPs name board. Photo: The News/File
The ECP's name board. Photo: The News/File

ISLAMABAD: Facing now day-to-day hearing in the foreign funding case, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on Tuesday called into question the incomplete Election Commission of Pakistan, insisting that an incomplete ECP was not authorised to decide a case.

The electoral body, which consists of five members i.e. the chief election commissioner and four members, one from each province, presently comprises three as two (from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab) had retired in July last year and new inductions could not be made owing to a deadlock between the then government and the opposition.

As the three-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, resumed the hearing, PTI counsel Anwar Mansoor Khan pointed out that two ECP members had retired after having completed their terms. He emphasised during his arguments that the Constitution empowered the commission and not the commissioner or members, citing the Article 218 of the Constitution.

Hence, he contended, the ECP was incomplete so far as its composition was concerned as per the Constitution, emphasising that this objection should be noted. He also defended funding by the PTI and said that as per the law, funds could be received from those Pakistanis having dual nationalities.

To this, the CEC remarked that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had ordered the ECP to decide the case within 30 days. He also said the ECP wanted to hold hearing on a daily basis in line with the IHC’s order.

The PTI counsel said he would start arguments and needed three days to wind up. He said he would not be available from April 20. He said that unlike Pakistan, in India, a citizen could not be a dual nationality holder and this was noted by the scrutiny committee, which had not found the documents provided by the petitioner.

The CEC adjourned the hearing until next week and directed holding hearing for three consecutive days. Anwar Mansoor also pleaded that the Scrutiny Committee had gone beyond its mandate stated in its TORs, insisting it could not exceed its limits while framing the report. He stopped short of commenting on the ECP order of April 14, 2021, which had clearly stated that 'the Scrutiny Committee will send its report with all the records to the commission and then we have to decide the case of foreign funding.' His contention was surprising at this stage that the case is before the ECP and all matters, including domestic, foreign, prohibited, and foreign funding, will have to be decided by the ECP and not the Scrutiny Committee.

Earlier, the petitioner’s lawyer, Badar Iqbal Chaudhry, read out the Islamabad High Court order of April 1, 2022, in which the IHC had directed the ECP to complete the arguments and decide the Foreign Funding Case within 30 days "by all means after hearing the parties in accordance with law." The IHC order also clearly directs that in case prohibited funding is proved, its implications will be on the party and its chairman.

In a related development, the PTI has announced its intention to challenge the latest IHC verdict of directing the ECP to conclude the case in 30 days through an intra-court appeal before the IHC.

Meanwhile, talking to journalists outside the ECP Secretariat, PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi urged the ECP to summon the other political parties in their respective (foreign funding) cases as well.

Qureshi said they were not afraid but the other parties should also be summoned to face relevant cases, emphasising the claim of illegal foreign funding against the PTI did not hold water, as all the funds were legal and hence there was nothing in the case. He pointed out that the ECP scrutiny committee had extended its mandate against his own party and maintained the PTI funding record was clean and in funding, overseas Pakistanis had also supported the party.

Talking to the media outside the ECP, the petitioner and PTI founding member Akbar S Babar said that the real conspiracy against Pakistan was illegal funding of a political party to propel it to power. He claimed there was no doubt from available evidence that the PTI had been funded by foreigners, including Indian nationals and offshore companies and bank accounts had been concealed from the ECP.

He said the IHC order had clearly spelled out the serious consequences of illegal funding that go way beyond confiscation of illegal funds only. Babar condemned the recent campaign against the institutions and said this was the real conspiracy to pitch the people against the army.

PTI Information Secretary Farrukh Habib announced that the PTI would file an intra-court appeal challenging the IHC’s order. He also called for hearing all the political parties' funding cases together.