Foreign Funding case: Agents responsible if illegal funds received, PTI tells ECP

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has submitted completed details to the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the foreign funding case, adding that if any funds were collected illegally, then responsibility lied with the agent(s).

The scrutiny panel held a meeting at the ECP to investigate the PTI in the foreign funding case. The party’s counsel Shah Khawar and petitioner Akbar S. Babar along with his lawyer appeared before the committee.

The probe against the PTI had reportedly entered into a final phase and that the ECP had directed the scrutiny body to expedite the investigation process after expressing concern over the delay in the scrutiny of the funding-related documents. It had directed the committee to expedite its work and hold meetings thrice a week to finish the task underway since March 2018.

During the proceedings, PTI’s lawyer submitted complete details of the party funding with the inquiry committee and expressed hope that the ruling party would be “honourably acquitted” in the case. He said the PTI had submitted the complete details about the sources of party funding with the panel.

The committee adjourned its session after briefly discussing the PTI’s response to the committee’s questionnaire. The petitioner’s lawyer Ahmad Hassan Shah reportedly protested at the continued refusal of the committee to share the PTI financial documents with the petitioner.

The counsel contended that by refusing to share the documents, the committee was in violation of ECP Order, issued on May 30, 2018 that rejected the PTI plea of keeping these documents and scrutiny process secret.

The lawyer emphasized that they were participating in the committee proceedings under protest as denying access to PTI bank statements and other documents was a violation of law and due process.

The chairman of the committee acknowledged that the PTI bank statements and other documents were not being shared with the petitioner on the concerns of the party. The petitioner complained on the independence and transparency of the scrutiny when those being investigated were managing the process.

The petitioner also raised objections over the investigation by the scrutiny committee saying the panel wanted to dispose of the matter in haste. He alleged that the inquiry panel was trying to protect the ruling party and the ECP had also expressed no confidence in it.

Earlier in September 2020, the ECP had rejected the scrutiny panel’s report as incomplete. The committee, headed by ECP director general (law), was formed in March 2018 to complete audit of PTI accounts for the period 2009-13 in a month’s time which was later extended.

On June 2, 2020, the ECP gave a final deadline to the committee for report submission by August 17. The committee concluded scrutiny on August 13. The case alleges serious financial irregularities in the PTI’s accounts, illegal sources of funding, concealing bank accounts, money laundering, and using private bank accounts of PTI memebers as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East.