The Election Commission rules that the PTI received prohibited funding from foreign donors
n the case of prohibited fundraising by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has declared that the party received prohibited and foreign funding from several countries.
The three-member ECP bench, in a unanimous verdict, stated that the PTI “knowingly and willfully” received funding from various foreign companies, including Wootton Cricket Limited, and that the party was a “willing recipient” of prohibited funds amounting to $2,121,500. It also received donations from companies based in the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and others. The party also benefitted from donations by many foreigners in “violation of the law”.
According to the verdict, the PTI had owned only eight accounts before the commission. “The data obtained from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reveals that all the 13 accounts disowned by the PTI were opened and operated by senior PTI management and leadership at [the] central and provincial levels.”
The commission maintained that the party also failed to mention accounts that were being operated by the party’s senior leadership. Non-disclosure and concealment of 16 bank accounts by the PTI is a “serious lapse” on part of the PTI leadership and a violation of Article 17(3) of the Constitution, which says “Every political party shall account for the source of its funds in accordance with the law.”
The PTI chairman submitted Form-I for five years (between 2008 and 2013) which was found to be “grossly inaccurate on the basis of the financial statements obtained by this commission from the SBP and other material available on record”. “Therefore, the matter falls within the ambit of Article 6(3) of Political Parties Order 2002 (PPO). Hence, the commission directs that a notice may be issued to the respondent party in terms of Rule 6 of the PPO as to why the aforementioned prohibited funds may not be confiscated. The office is also directed to initiate any other action under the law in light of this order of the commission, including forwarding the case to the federal government,” the verdict reads.
The PTI leadership, reacting to the verdict, alleged that the ECP was biased against it. “The verdict is not based on truth and correct information which was provided by the party to the commission but neglected,” they said.
PTI leader Akbar S Babar had filed the petition before the ECP in November 2014, during the 2014 sit-in. “We were fighting against a mountain. This was a battle of truth versus might and we are victorious,” Babar, the complainant in the case stated. He said the case was an attempt to bring a pivotal change so that political parties operate under the law. He said the ECP’s decision was a step towards uprooting what he called the PTI “fascism”.
Senior PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry claimed that all party accounts were legal. He said some subsidiary accounts were opened under party leaders’ names ahead of elections and were declared too.
On Twitter, a PTI supporter identified herself as Beenish Faridi. She said she had been mentioned in the verdict as a ‘foreign’ donor. Calling the ECP verdict “outrageous”, she claimed to have donated to the party ahead of the 2013 elections using PTI’s online official account. “Now I have seen my name in the list of ‘foreign donors’. I am a Pakistani living in the UK,” she said.
The PTI has moved the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the verdict and the Supreme Judicial Council against Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. Some legal experts say that there can be consequences for the party and its chairman as a result of this verdict and the show-cause notice issued by the ECP.
Article 6(3) of the PPO states: “Any contribution made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign government, multinational or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association shall be prohibited and the parties may accept contributions and donations only from individuals.” They also observe that, in the long run, there could be grounds for reforming the laws relevant to political parties.
“The verdict can have serious consequences for the PTI. The situation provides an opportunity to the country’s political leadership to introduce legal reforms,” senior lawyer Irfan Qadir says.
Some analysts, however, say it is a temporary measure to put pressure on the PTI.
Analyst Zahid Hussain says the ECP verdict may open a Pandora’s boxes, with repercussions far beyond Pakistan. “The PTI’s rival parties, which are in power, will use this verdict as a good opportunity to step up their political attacks against Imran Khan and his party. There is no sign that the verdict will affect Imran Khan’s political support base. But the episode raises questions about his integrity and adherence to the law and democratic values, which he never stops talking about,” he says.
Last week, the PTI staged a protest demonstration in Islamabad against the government and the ECP. To forestall violence, the administration sealed the Red Zone.
The PTI says it intends to challenge this verdict in courts. The ruling alliance has apparently decided to move the Supreme Court for the disqualification of Imran Khan.
The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com. He tweets at @waqargillani