ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet Thursday decided to send a declaration against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its leadership to the Supreme Court, and directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to launch an inquiry against the party leaders for start of criminal proceedings against them on the charges of money-laundering and misuse of charity funds for political purposes.
“As per the ECP verdict, the federal cabinet has decided in principle to send a declaration to the Supreme Court and the FIA is being asked to launch an inquiry for start of criminal proceedings,” Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said while briefing the media on the cabinet decisions.
The ECP verdict, which was announced under Political Parties Order (PPO), 2002, declared the PTI as a foreign-funded party. “Imran Khan, as the PTI chairman, knowingly and willingly submitted false affidavits and declarations with the ECP for five years,” the minister said, adding that the ECP decision also used words ‘knowingly’ and ‘willingly’ and it declared the PTI as a party which received foreign funds from foreign companies and nationals.
The minister said that during the cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, a briefing was given by the law minister on legal aspects of the ECP verdict. She said the law minister was given three-day time after Ashura to present the declaration before the cabinet for detailed deliberations on all its legal and constitutional aspects, and its approval before it was filed with the Supreme Court for further action.
Marriyum pointed out that the PTI was a political rival of the government, but the ECP announced its decision as per the Elections Act, 2017 and the Political Parties Order, 2002. She said declaration against the PTI leadership would be filed in the SC for action under the Political Parties Order, 2002. “The ECP decision not only mentions false affidavits of Imran Khan but also gives a complete money trail and the same proved that the PTI is a foreign-funded party,” she said.
The minister said the PTI chairman, in his five affidavits, knowingly signed the statement, which said that according to the best of his knowledge and belief, the financial position of the party and other details were correct and no funds were obtained from prohibited sources, as per PPO, 2002.
She also recalled that the PTI sought 51 adjournments, filed 11 petitions with the high court and changed nine lawyers which showed that they were complete time to respond. “Now they are giving responses on television channels, but it could have been better had they done so in last eight years,” she said.
The minister said the PTI leadership sought 51 adjournments but submitted no concrete replies and attempted to escape from the ECP. “The interpretation of Constitution and law cannot be different in this case, and the federal cabinet also acted in the same spirit,” the minister said.
She said the PTI did not declare 16 accounts, though those were opened in the name of Imran Khan, other PTI leaders and employees working in the party secretariat. She said the interior minister had been asked to direct the FIA to launch an independent and impartial inquiry against the PTI leadership, while looking at aspects of money-laundering, misappropriation of funds and misuse of charity funds for political purposes.
“This is a big decision. For the first time in the country’s history, a party has been declared as a foreign-aided party. The decision says that personal accounts were used to receive foreign funding for the party, and the same also makes it a case of fraud,” she said adding that the inquiry would also find as to where the foreign funds were utilised.
She said the FIA inquiry would also have inputs from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and other concerned organisations.
To a question whether any decision was taken to put names of Imran Khan and other PTI leaders on the Exit Control List (ECL), she said the coalition government was different from the previous regime, which used to arrest political leaders and put their names on ECL. “We want to follow the legal course as per law of the land and the ECP verdict,” she said.
She told a questioner that filing a declaration against the PTI leadership and start of the FIA was not demand of the federal cabinet, but it acted as per Constitution and law in the light of the ECP verdict. “This is not our demand but we are bound to act as per the Constitution and law,” she said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to his twitter handle to criticise PTI Chairman Imran Khan for receiving prohibited funding from foreign companies and individuals.
He said that over the decades, Imran Niazi deceived people in the name of honesty, transparency and accountability. The foreign funding verdict had busted his claims and showed him for what he actually was: a con man, he said adding that the coalition government would take the verdict to its logical conclusion.
In another tweet, he said: “For 8 years, Imran Niazi used all means, fair & foul, to delay the judgment. It includes 9 petitions in IHC & over 50 adjournments. For 5 years, he wilfully & knowingly submitted false affidavits. It is proven now that PTI is a foreign-aided party without any shadow of doubt.”
Separately, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Thursday filed a reference with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to disqualify PTI Chairman Imran Khan. The petition contends that the former premier did not declare the gifts received from the Toshakhana in his assets declaration and, therefore, should be disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution - the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in 2017.
The reference was submitted by MNA Barrister Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha to Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, carrying signatures of other lawmakers including Agha Hassan Baloch, Salahuddin Ayubi, Ali Gohar Khan, Syed Rafiullah Agha and Saad Waseem Sheikh.
The reference calls upon the ECP to disqualify Imran under Sections 2 and 3 of Article 63 of the Constitution, read with Article 62(1)(f). It carries documentary evidence to corroborate the legislators’ claims against former premier Imran Khan.
Article 62(1)(f) says, “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless ... he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law.”
Likewise, Article 63(2) says, “If any question arises whether a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) has become disqualified from being a member, the Speaker or, as the case may be, the Chairman shall, unless he decides that no such question has arisen, refer the question to the Election Commission within thirty days and should he fail to do so within the aforesaid period it shall be deemed to have been referred to the Election Commission.”
Article 63(3) reads, “The Election Commission shall decide the question within ninety days from its receipt or deemed to have been received and if it is of the opinion that the member has become disqualified, he shall cease to be a member and his seat shall become vacant.”