Opposition asks ECP to hear funding case on daily basis

Published: November 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: After its failure to dent the government with a sit-in and countrywide roadblocks, a political conglomerate of opposition parties has called upon the country’s top poll supervisory body to expedite adjudication on allegations that the ruling party had received funds from abroad.

Members of the Rahbar Committee submitted a memorandum at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday demanding a daily hearing of the foreign funding case against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) till its adjudication.

The move came after a meeting of the Rahbar Committee where attendees included JUI-F’s Akram Khan Durrani, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal, PPP’s Nayyar Bukhari and Farhatullah Babar, ANP’s Mian Iftikhar, PkMAP’s Usman Khan Kakar, and Tahir Bizenjo of the National Party.

After the meeting, they met with the ECP secretary to submit the memorandum before addressing the media outside the ECP headquarters.

“This case has been pending for the past five years. Why those who claim to follow the model of State of Madina are so afraid of being held accountable for their actions,” asked Durrani.

“The delays in this case will be detrimental for Pakistan. The ECP must conduct daily hearings and adjudicate this case as soon as possible,” he added.

Ahsan claimed that the PTI has dozens of ‘benami’ accounts, but the party has never provided their details. “Funds coming in from countries, including the United States, India, and the UAE, are being deposited in the personal accounts of Imran Khan and his friends,” he alleged.

The Rahbar Committee was formed last month ahead of the JUI-F’s so-called Azadi March to hold talks with the government on the opposition’s demands. The JUI-F, which had unleashed the march with the aim to oust the government, abruptly called it off on November 13, to pursue a ‘Plan B’ of his strategy which envisaged countrywide roadblocks.

The JUI-F and its allies, however, failed to achieve anything tangible from their protest, triggering criticism in the media about the objectives of their movement. The move to pressure the ECP appears to be another weapon in their arsenal.

Foreign funding case

The PTI’s disgruntled member Akbar S Babar had filed the foreign funding case in the ECP in 2014 after he developed differences with PTI Chairman Imran Khan over alleged internal corruption and abuse of laws governing political funding.

For over a year, the proceedings were delayed in the ECP as the PTI had filed a writ petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in October 2015 seeking to restrain the ECP from scrutinising its accounts.

In February 2017, the IHC remanded the case back to the ECP for a fresh review of its jurisdiction.

On May 8, 2017, a full bench of the ECP once again declared its complete jurisdiction over the matter and stated that the PTI had failed to present any evidence that the petitioner, Akbar S Babar, has been expelled from the party.

A scrutiny committee was constituted in March 2018 to complete audit of the PTI’s funding sources in one month. Later on, its mandate was extended for an indefinite period.

In October 2019, a three-member bench of ECP, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza, rejected four applications filed by PTI requesting secrecy during the investigation.

IHC proceedings

Separately, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday adjourned till first week of December hearing of the PTI’s petition against the ECP’s October 10 order due to absence of the PTI’s counsel.

When the IHC judge Mohsin Akhtar Kiani took up the petition, an associate of the PTI counsel told the court that the counsel was busy in a case in the Supreme Court. Later, the judge adjourned the hearing till December.

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