Auditing PTI’s accounts: High court sets aside ECP order

Case remanded back to poll supervisory body to decide it afresh

Rizwan Shehzad February 16, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday set aside an order of the Election Commission of Pakistan to examine the audited accounts of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on allegations that the party had received foreign funding and contributions.

The case, however, was remanded back to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with directions to decide afresh while keeping in view the objections raised by PTI.

A division bench of IHC comprising Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi and Justice Aamer Farooq had accepted PTI’s petition challenging ECP’s decision.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s counsel Anwar Mansoor had argued that the ECP had no jurisdiction to order the examination of past and closed transactions on a private complainant, which according to him, had no locus standi in the matter.

Mansoor had challenged ECP’s decision of scrutiny of records, arguing that the ECP does not have authority to adjudicate the matter of disputed facts and complaints raised under the Political Parties Order (PPO), 2002.

Assuming jurisdiction violates laws, he said, adding that ECP was neither a tribunal nor a court. The counsel maintained that the objections were left undecided and the commission took cognisance of the case without settling the issue of maintainability.

He further said that the ECP was not looking into the accounts of any other party except the PTI despite the fact that auditors had put up flags while preparing audit reports of different parties.

He added that nowhere was it stated in law that ECP could scrutinise accounts. He added that only a chartered accountant could present a true picture of the accounts. Should he fail to do so, a process exists to hold him accountable. However, Mansoor said, this process was not followed.

Akbar Sher Babar, an estranged PTI founding member who had developed differences with Imran over alleged internal corruption and violation of laws to maintain its accounts, had filed a case in ECP in 2015 over illegal foreign funding to the party.

Baber, through his counsel Syed Ahmed Hasan Shah, had sought account details of money transferred from abroad including the US, England, Canada, Australia and the United Arab Emirates to PTI accounts or to accounts of the party’s employees since July 2010.

During the hearing, the bench remarked that the case would not resolve the issue whether PTI was foreign aided or not, rather it would only limit the case to the petition, jurisdiction and procedural powers of the ECP.

In addition, Justice Farooq had inquired from Babar and ECP’s counsel if the poll body had the authority to initiate proceedings under the law.

Shah replied that the ECP was the only body to look into the matter of foreign funding and where there were no set procedures, the law says, a commission decides what to do.

Over ECP’s jurisdiction to order an examination of past and closed transactions, Shah said the transactions were not past and closed until the next elections and could be probed.

In his petition, Mansoor contended that Baber did not have a locus standi to approach the ECP with a complaint under the PPO, 2002. He further argued that poll supervisory body was acting in excess of tis power without statutory competence.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2017.