Thursday July 18, 2024

Foreign funding: IHC suspends order to conclude PTI case in 30 days

The IHC CJ observed that the law permitted the ECP to scrutinise the accounts of political parties every year and if prohibited funding was found it would be confiscated

By Awais Yousafzai
April 26, 2022
Photo: The News/File
Photo: The News/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday suspended the order to conclude the PTI foreign funding case within 30 days.

A single bench had directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to wrap up the case in a month, over applications filed by the PTI asking for Akbar S Babar’s separation from the case, its dismissal and keeping the PTI documents secret.

Today's directive was issued by IHC's division bench, comprising IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Babar Sattar, in response to PTI's intra-court appeal challenging a single bench's order.

Shah Khawar advocate represented the PTI as he argued that PTI’s accounts had been subject to scrutiny for a “long time”. CJ Minallah responded to the petitioner that the law permitted the ECP to scrutinise the accounts of political parties every year and if prohibited funding was found it would be confiscated.

The bench combined the PTI petition against ECP's alleged bias with the intra-court appeal and issued notices to the parties, seeking replies on May 17.

The PTI has sought a judicial order for the ECP to conclude similar cases against PMLN, PPP and other political parties in the same period of time, maintaining that the commission targeted only PTI.

It also demanded the court direct the ECP to scrutiniseother political parties’ accounts through the State Bank of Pakistan and publicise the account details after the scrutiny report.

The PTI has nominated ECP and 17 political parties, including PMLN, PPP, MQMP, JUIF, AML, TLP, BAP, BNP and ANP as respondents in the case. “We also requested the Election Commission to scrutinise the accounts of other parties, but the ECP has been slow in handling those cases,” the PTI’s lawyer argued.

Shah Khawar said that PTI is being singled out in the case and it wants similar action against other political parties. The lawyer objected to the bench’s use of harsh terms such as “face the music", stating that such non-parliamentary words were not the mandate of a single bench.

“The single bench used the word ‘foreign funding’ in the decision even though the case before the ECP is not of foreign funding but prohibited funding,” he added stating that it was not the prerogative of the bench to order the electoral body to take a decision within 30 days.

The chief justice questioned if the ECP scrutiny committee confirmed that Akbar S Babar's documents were not verifiable, what action is being taken now? “You are saying that the same action should be taken against all political parties.”

On April 14, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani of IHC ordered conclusion of foreign funding case of the PTI within 30 days, ruling that the ECP’s role “is of important nature and same cannot be curtailed in any manner”.

It noted that ECP is a “supervisory, regulatory and administrative body under the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 to deal with the affairs of political parties, election and its results.” It also noted that “no restriction could be imposed on ECP to adopt any process of inquiry, investigation, scrutiny to reach out the mandate of assigned duty in terms of Article 17(3).”