ISLAMABAD: A three member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan adjourned hearing on Wednesday till May 28 on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s objections to the TORs of the ECP scrutiny committee, formed to review the party’s foreign funding after it again changed its lawyer citing ill-health of the previous one.
The party will now be represented by Babar Awan, the former law minister and leader of PPP who represented Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari in numerous corruption cases filed against them. He replaced former Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan.
On the other hand, petitioner and PTI’s founding member Akbar S Babar continued to be represented by Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah, who has been his counsel ever since the case was first filed in November 2014.
With the case now enters its fourth year with no apparent end in sight, the PTI continues to delay proceedings on one pretext after another.
Upon exhausting all legal objections to the jurisdiction of the ECP and the locus standi of the petitioner in the Islamabad High Court and the Supreme Court, the latest application to stall scrutiny of its accounts relates to the party’s objections on the TORs of the three-member committee formed by the commission.
The committee, formed on April 3 and headed by DG Law and two auditors from the defense establishment, was mandated by the ECP to scrutinise PTI’s accounts in one month. However, it failed to make significant headway as the party failed to produce financial statements sought from it and instead objected to its terms of references (TORs) and media reporting of the scrutiny proceedings.
Informed sources disclosed that during successive committee meetings, PTI Central Finance Secretary Sardar Azhar Tariq Khan consistently raised objections to the media reporting of the committee’s proceedings and sought a gag order.
Sources within the ECP revealed that the PTI has filed a separate application with the ECP, seeking to keep the proceedings of the ECP scrutiny committee secret. The application is also expected to come up for hearing on May 28.
On Tuesday, Babar Awan requested more time to prepare his arguments regarding PTI objections to the TORs of the scrutiny committee.
The petitioner’s lawyer Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah briefed the bench on the one month scrutiny committee proceedings that could not finish its mandate as PTI failed to produce 10 financial instruments sought from it including bank statements.
He said the PTI continues to defy production of financial documents since April 2015 when the ECP first declared that the party submitted audit reports devoid of any details about the sources and details of its foreign funding. Shah said the PTI intransigence is holding back the scrutiny of its accounts and delaying justice.
PTI’s new counsel Awan conceded that even if some funds were received from illegal sources, the maximum punishment was to seize those funds and nothing beyond that.
On the request of the PTI lawyer, the case was adjourned till May 28.