Friday August 12, 2022

ECP verdict on foreign funding case today

The Commission had reserved the judgment on June 21 this year after a record period of eight years

August 02, 2022
ECP verdict on foreign funding case today

ISLAMABAD: Amidst a volley of threats hurled by the PTI leadership at the Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and its unrelenting demand for his resignation, the Election Commission (EC) finally announced on Monday that the verdict in the PTI foreign funding case will be handed down on Tuesday (today).

A three-member bench, comprising Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and ECP members Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi, will announce the verdict at 10am, said a statement issued by the Election Commission.

The Commission had reserved the judgment on June 21 this year after a record period of eight years, making it a unique case in the country’s history. The petition was filed by Akbar S. Babar — one of the PTI’s founding members and former information secretary — in November 2014.

The case was marred by several reasons, including the PTI challenging the Election Commission’s jurisdiction, a change of its lawyers nine times and other delaying tactics. Babar had alleged that around $3 million in illegal foreign funds was raised through two offshore companies and the money was illegally sent to the accounts of PTI employees from the Middle East through ‘Hundi’.

He had also alleged that the funds which used to be funneled from abroad were kept hidden in the annual audit report submitted to the Election Commission.

The cause list — issued by the Election Commission — includes the scheduled announcement of the case, triggering a debate in the political circles and the general public on the political future of the PTI and its Chairman Imran Khan.

At one stage, the Election Commission had written to the State Bank to get details of the accounts after the PTI refused to cooperate. The Election Commission had established a three-member Scrutiny Committee in March 2018 to look into the issue of foreign funding.

On October 01 last year, the ECP reserved its verdict on four petitions filed by the PTI for secrecy in examining the case. On October 10, 2019, the Election Commission rejected the objections made by the then ruling party to the audit of its accounts through the Scrutiny Committee, but the PTI challenged the decision in the Islamabad High Court and it was decided to hear the foreign funding case on a daily basis in November 2019.

The Commission had rejected the ‘incomplete’ report of its Scrutiny Committee on 2020 foreign funding case and stated in the order that the report was not complete and comprehensive.

Later, in November 2021, the Scrutiny Committee submitted an audit report of the PTI funds. The committee, constituted in March 2019, had also submitted its report six months after the deadline ended.

The committee report confirmed that the PTI received funds from foreign nationals and companies, showed less funds and several of bank accounts. The report also cited the controversy over allowing four PTI employees to receive donations in their personal accounts but said scrutinizing their accounts was beyond the committee’s purview.

It may be recalled that the Scrutiny Committee was constituted in March 2018 to thoroughly check the accounts of PTI but it took nearly four years to submit its report to the ECP which was submitted in December 2021. The committee had also expressed its helplessness in getting certain related details from the PTI.

However, some documents were kept confidential in this report and were not brought to light after which on January 19, 2022, the Election Commission ordered that all confidential documents be made public.

On April 14, the Islamabad High Court had ordered the Election Commission to decide the case within a month, which was challenged by the PTI and the court order was suspended. The ECP judgment is being awaited by many with a bated breath and speculations are rife that the verdict will give a new turn to the ongoing political crisis.