Foreign funding case: Is a watershed moment approaching for PTI?

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has summoned the two main position parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Monday in connection with the foreign funding case. The ECP has instructed both parties to appear before the scrutiny committee and present their defence.

The development will take place a day before the previously scheduled protest in front of the Election Commission of Pakistan offices by the Pakistan Democratic Movement opposition (PDM) union, which is aiming to highlight the setback in concluding the foreign funding case against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The foreign funding case against the ruling party has been dragging for six-years without reaching a final conclusion. The case pertains to allegations that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has taken funds from suspicious, banned and illegal sources which, if confirmed, can lead to harsh results for the party.

Foreign funding case

The case was filed by Akbar S Babar, one of the founding members of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in November 2014. Babar filed the case with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on November 14, 2014, and alleged that the PTI received funds from foreign companies and foreign nationals through undeclared accounts.

The petitioner demanded that the ECP start an investigation of all those responsible for that in PTI, from the chairperson to others, in accordance with the law for gross violations of political funding laws.

Petitioner expressed dissatisfaction

The petitioner of the foreign funding case and PTI founding member Akbar S Babar has repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the pace of the ECP scrutiny. Even the ECP in its order of October 10, 2019, had directed the Scrutiny Committee to complete scrutiny expeditiously.

As late as January 24, 2020, Mr. Babar filed an application with the ECP seeking directions to the Scrutiny Committee “to hear on a daily basis and complete scrutiny of PTI foreign funding within a limited and fixed timeframe.”

This foreign-funding case is very serious and if found guilty, PTI and Imran Khan could both be banned from politics for life. The case against the ruling party is being termed a test for the current Election Commission of Pakistan.

PTI’s response and legal approaches

On October 8, 2015, the ECP rejected PTI’s petition challenging its jurisdiction to scrutinize PTI’s accounts. On November 26, 2015, the PTI filed a writ petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), challenging ECP’s jurisdiction and locus of the petitioner Babar.

On February 17, 2017, the case was remanded back to the ECP, after a delay of a year and a half, to re-ascertain ECP’s jurisdiction and PTI’s membership of petitioner Babar.

On May 8, 2017, the ECP again asserted its jurisdiction over the case and stated that there was not an iota of evidence that Babar has been expelled from the party. The PTI has launched multiple efforts over the years to question the jurisdiction of the ECP over this issue.

However, these claims and petitions have been rejected at different platforms and the authorities of ECP have maintained that it is fully within its jurisdiction to demand an explanation from the PTI about its sources of funding.

ECP has formed a scrutiny commission to go over all the documents presented in order to reach a final ending. The PDM is now demanding that the Election Commission of Pakistan bring the case against the PTI to a final conclusion.

PDM will protest in front of the ECP office 

Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif has announced that PDM will protest in front of the ECP office in the capital on Jan 19 to put pressure against the setback in concluding the foreign funding case against PTI.

In a video message posted on his Twitter account on Saturday, Nawaz alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan was using delaying tactics and ignoring the directions of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the foreign funding case.

Nawaz said there was no doubt PM Imran was a criminal, adding that he was now shifting the blame on the agents managing two US companies registered on the latter’s orders in the PTI foreign funding case.

“Why is the ECP not taking action when the evidence is clear-cut?” he questioned, claiming that the nation is protesting against the ECP’s negligence in fulfilling its Constitutional duties”.

The clear and straightforward case had been pending with the ECP for the past six years. A decision had not been taken because it concerned Imran Khan and the PTI instead of other political parties, Nawaz added.

ECP needs to trace a final conclusion

The Election Commission of Pakistan, for its part, requires dispelling the impression that it is permitting for delays when there is hardly any need for it. One way for the ECP to speed up the issue is not to give extended dates for hearings.

It should direct daily hearings for all parties and come to a decision on the issue once and for all. The opposition parties also need to cough up all the solid evidence demanded by the ECP instead of politicizing the case against the ruling party. Opposition parties and relevant authorities must come clean without further interruption.

On the other hand, PTI should clarify the allegations regarding the case; PM Imran has been bearing a big question mark on his forehead for a long. Khan requires justifying and clearing his position rather than beating about the bush.