KARACHI: British journalist Simon Clark says the guests he spoke to who had attended the now-infamous match at Wootton Cricket Club, arranged by Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi, and which was used allegedly to raise funds for the PTI, say they did not know where the money was going.
“The PTI confirms that Wootton Cricket Ltd -- which is Naqvi’s company -- sent $2.12 million to the PTI. My article shows that $1.3 million of that money came from Abraaj and not Pakistani citizens. The PTI says it didn’t know where the money came from”.
On July 28, Clark had in a report for the Financial Times made some explosive revelations regarding Arif Naqvi’s Cayman Islands-incorporated company Wootton Cricket Ltd, saying it was allegedly used to bankroll the PTI after receiving funds from companies and individuals, “including at least $2 million from a UAE government minister who is also a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family”.
Speaking to Shahzeb Khanzada of Geo’s ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath’ Monday night, Clark says he first got to know about the purpose behind Arif Naqvi’s Wootton Cricket Ltd through the ECP’s January 2022 report regarding the PTI prohibited funding case -- better known as the ‘foreign funding’ case: “I was always curious about the purpose of Wootton Cricket because of its strange name but the first I got to know of its purpose was in January when the ECP published its initial report on the PTI foreign funding case. The ECP had said the PTI received $2.12 million from Wootton Cricket. [However], the ECP report did not say where Wootton was getting its money from -- and that’s what my story is about’’.
According to Clark, there are two main issues to look at here: one that under the Pakistani law, companies cannot fund political parties and the other that “Wootton Cricket received $2 million from Shaikh Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family. In emails, Naqvi talks about sending $1.2 million of that money to the PTI which was done via Tariq Shafi and a company called Insaf Trust. The PTI says they had no knowledge Nahyan’s money was sent to them”.
There have been attempts at painting a picture of the persecution of Arif Naqvi for being Muslim and Pakistani, something Clark refutes in his talk with Geo: “I have been investigating this for four and a half years and have seen no evidence of a conspiracy against Arif Naqvi...I have collected enormous amounts of evidence of financial wrongdoing at Abraaj. This is not a case of minor irregularities. I have been a financial journalist for 23 years and I have never seen such a case”.
He also says Naqvi’s affidavit in which he says he received funds for the PTI only from Pakistani residents living temporarily or permanently abroad is contradicted by the evidence he [Clark] has gathered, and that if the PTI were to take him to court he has sources including “bank statements, SWIFT statements, internal Abraaj emails, spreadsheets and documents. And I gave everyone named in the article multiple opportunities to respond and explain. Imran Khan and the PTI responded to my queries ... [but] Naqvi, Shafi and Nahyan didn’t”.
Simon Clark also says, while he has seen “Abraaj emails that show that Naqvi and colleagues were talking about the $20 million payment [as bribe] to the Sharifs [for approval of the KE deal], I have seen no evidence that the money was actually paid. And the Sharifs say they didn’t even know the money was being discussed.”
The PTI prohibited funding case goes way back to 2014, when founding member and former vice-president of the party Akbar S Babar filed a petition with the Election Commission of Pakistan, asking for an investigation into what he said were ‘financial malpractices’ in the party. Babar had said that the PTI was guilty of violating the Political Parties Order, 2002.
Under Article 17(3) of the Constitution, political parties are supposed to account for “the source of its funds in accordance with law” while the Political Parties Order, 2002 provides restrictions regarding funding of political parties and defines what a “foreign-aided political party” is: a party formed by a government or political party of another country or affiliated with one or one that receives funding from any foreign government or political party or national.
The PTI had filed petitions with court challenging the ECP’s jurisdiction to scrutinize its accounts and had also challenged AKbar S Babar’s party membership.
In November 2015, the ECP had rejected the PTI’s petition regarding the ECP’s jurisdiction to hear the case and in 2017, the ECP had rejected the petition that challenged Babar’s PTI membership. This year in April, the PTI’s counsel appeared before the ECP and said that the funding of a political party from internationally registered companies was not prohibited as long as it was not a multinational company. In June this year, the ECP had reserved its verdict in the case. The verdict is now due today (Tuesday).
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