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Thursday, May 23, 2024

IHC tells ECP to decide PTI’s foreign funding case in 30 days

The court dismisses PTI’s plea to keep its foreign funding confidential and keep petitioner Akbar S Babar separate from the case.

The Islamabad High Court has directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to wrap up Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s foreign funding within a month. On Thursday, the Court dismissed a petition filed by the PTI to keep its foreign funding confidential and keep Akbar S Babar separate from the case.

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani termed the petition non-maintainable, misconceived, and an attempt to get Akbar S Babar barred from the ECP’s proceedings. He also dismissed another PTI plea to stop the commission from sharing documents with Akbar S Babar, who had filed the case in November 2014.

However, the IHC ruled that the ECP’s role “is of important nature and same cannot be curtailed in any manner.” It noted that the body is a “supervisory, regulatory and administrative body under the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 to deal with the affairs of political parties, election, and its results”.

Read more: No illicit money received from outside: Anwar Mansoor

It also noted that “no restriction could be imposed upon ECP to adopt any process of inquiry, investigation, scrutiny to reach out the mandate of assigned duty in terms of Article 17(3)”. The order also said that the apex court has not “restricted” the ECP to “adopt any method to reach out the truth.”

On March 15, the ECP had dismissed PTI’s two applications seeking exclusion of its disgruntled founding member Akbar S Babar from the foreign funding case. Asad Umar, the PTI’s secretary-general, had filed the petition before the IHC. The party had also pleaded that all records of the case, including documents requisitioned through the State Bank, should not be shared with Babar.

The PTI argued in its petition the ECP had “failed to appreciate the real issue in the matter, which was mentioned in the report of the scrutiny committee,” adding that the report had three parts. The first part dealt with generalisations, citing the law referred to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Terms of Reference made by the ECP.

The second dealt with the information given by Akbar S Babar to ECP. The third proceeded to investigate itself, having concluded that the complainant had failed to provide “verifiable details and credible evidence” to substantiate his claims.

“Thus, the scrutiny committee relied on the material requisitioned from the State Bank of Pakistan and the annual declarations filed by PTI with the ECP and not the information supplied by Babar, and the report was prepared rejecting the information supplied by him,” the petition said.

It stated that the scrutiny committee’s understanding was that the “information obtained is not from Akbar S Babar but was obtained by the ECP, and it ought to be kept confidential.”

Read more: PTI to challenge ECP delimitation of constituencies

The case began in 2014 when the party’s founding member, Akbar S Babar, filed it. In 2019, the scrutiny committee was formed to audit foreign funding received by the PTI. On January 4, an ECP scrutiny committee report probing the party’s funds revealed that the ruling PTI party had received Rs1.64 billion in funding. According to the report, PTI hid funds worth Rs310 million from the ECP.