Now that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has decided to stage a resistance, it will need funds to maintain the momentum of the movement
he Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has launched an international appeal to raise funds for what it said was the launch of a political movement against an “imported government”. The party’s agitation movement aims to change the regime in Pakistan, reiterating Imran Khan’s stance that his government was dislodged by the then joint opposition (now coalition government) following a ‘foreign conspiracy’.
For their fund-raising drive, the PTI has launched a website called Namanzoor.com. Through this website, funds are being raised from various countries, including the US, UK and Australia. The funding is to support PTI’s political movement and activities of PTI chairman Imran Khan following his recent ouster.
The website runs worldwide. According to the website’s data, 35 percent of the amount collected in the first three days came from the UK. The amount in the account has apparently come down after the PTI Karachi public meeting held on April 17, for which Khan took a chartered flight, allegedly costing Rs 2.9 million. The data on the website indicates that UK’s share of donations has started declining.
PTI workers in the United States generated 18.64 percent of the funds in the first three days.
The fundraising and donation collection campaigns are in full swing. UK-based PTI leaders and workers say they have collected millions of Pakistani rupees through the website and that the money has been transferred to Pakistan.
Is it legal in the UK to collect funds for political movements abroad? Lawyer Ansar Chaudhary says fundraising is legal under the Political Parties and Elections Act, 2009. Still, such funding and financial support are meant for only registered political parties in the UK that participate in the UK elections. These donations are regularly declared and audited through UK authorities. The Act says, “Donations worth over £7,500 to national parties must be declared, as must be donations worth £1,500 or more to local associations. Donations to members’ associations – groups whose members are primarily or entirely members of a single political party – also need to be declared above £7,500.”
The PTI has launched a website called Namanzoor.com. Through this website, funds are being raised from various countries, including the US, UK and Australia. This funding is to support PTI’s political movement, and activities of PTI chairman Imran Khan following his recent ouster.
Answering a question about collection of donations to destabilise the current political government in Pakistan, Chaudhary says that British Pakistanis in the UK can fund any welfare movement or charitable activity in Pakistan but not a move to destabilise any state or government abroad. There is no legal or ethical justification for funding from abroad to support a so-called political movement. He says almost all political parties in Pakistan have supporters in the UK, but no party other than the PTI collects funds from its workers there. He says that the PTI has more than 12,000 paid members, and each member pays £36 a year. But the party has no trail for the money collected under the membership fee account.
“Party workers could raise funds, but these funds cannot be used for any negative or destructive activities,” elaborates Chaudhary.
He says that the foreign funding case is pending in Pakistan and the decision has yet to be announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan. He says that the current funding movement of the PTI for the ongoing movement could be declared illegal.
He says that as a political party, the PTI is registered in Pakistan, and only has its international chapter in the UK. So, funds cannot be raised for any harmful political purposes under the Political Act, he adds. “If it is challenged, the money can be confiscated by the authorities.”
When contacted about PTI’s annual membership fee, president of the PTI UK chapter Rana Abdul Sattar, said that the yearly membership fee is transferred directly to Pakistan. He, however, did not know where the money went or what it was used for.
He expressed ignorance on whether the membership fee was regularly audited. Responding to another question, he said that besides PTI members, others Pakistanis were also contributing to the Namanzoor Tehreek. He said there was no local PTI authority to raise such funds which is why the central organisation was arranging to collect these funds directly.
Another PTI leader, Amjad Amin Bobby, criticised the current fundraising. He said they did not even know how the membership had been spent. “That money should be accounted for first. Only then should new funds be collected for the Namanzoor Tehreek,” he said.
Naeem Ulfat, a former general secretary of the party, says that party funding in the UK is part of the joint activities of the party. A finance board maintains its accounts regularly. “This board alone decides, and calculates the fee and the funds collected in the UK. The procedure is completely transparent,” he says.
The writer is a correspondent for Geo News, daily Jang and The News in London