ISLAMABAD:

A scrutiny committee is going to submit on Monday its findings to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with regard to alleged foreign funding of the ruling PTI.

On Friday, the committee held its final meeting as the deadline set for it to conclude its investigation expired.  The ECP – the polls supervisory authority – had formed the three-member committee in March 2018 to investigate the foreign funding of political parties particularly Imran Khan’s PTI.

The committee held over 70 meetings. It is required to submit its final report to the ECP on August 17. Akbar S Babar, a disgruntled founding member of the PTI, had approached various forums including the ECP, claiming that the PTI had been receiving illegal funds from abroad.

Talking after the committee meeting on Friday, Babar expressed dissatisfaction over proceedings of the probe panel. He said the committee failed to share with him details of the PTI’s 18 local and 6 foreign bank accounts. The polls supervisory body has been hearing the case since 2014.

In January, the PTI through its chairman, Prime Minister Imran Khan, filed a petition against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) December 4, 2019 order to declare Babar a part of the ruling party.

In the petition, the PTI challenged the ECP’s jurisdiction as well as Babar’s locus standi.

Senior lawyer Shah Khawar is contesting the PTI’s main foreign funding case before the ECP and – according to a source – Khawar had advised the party against challenging the IHC order in the SC.

“Khawar believes the PTI has a very strong case and it should be contested on merit. He told the party that there is no need to create unnecessary hype against the commission in the media,” the official had said while speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“The counsel had told the party that the apex court in Hanif Abbasi case judgment has already declared that anyone can raise objection to funding of any political party [and therefore, it is pointless to challenge the IHC order declaring Babar a party member],” the official said.

However, contrary to his legal opinion, the PTI decided to approach the apex court stating that the party has been consistently expressing concerns about maintainability of the complaint filed by Babar and the manner of the proceedings before the ECP.

The Supreme Court has already discussed in detail the question of foreign funding in its 2017 judgment on a petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, who had sought disqualification of Imran Khan.

An SC bench, headed by chief justice Saqib Nisar, had made a distinction between a ‘foreign aided’ party and ‘prohibited funding’ and referred the case on Dec 16, 2017 to the ECP for a probe.

The judgment noted that it is the duty of the ECP to scrutinize accounts of political parties on the touchstone of Article 6(3) of the PPO read in the light of Article 17(3) of the Constitution.

Chaudhry Faisal Hussain advocate, who had appeared on behalf of the PTI in this case, also said it is not a foreign funding case but a prohibited funding case and both have different penal consequences.

He said other major political parties also face similar allegations of getting funds through prohibited sources. Therefore, the ECP must examine their accounts as well.

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