ECP summons PML-N, PPP in foreign funding case

The opposition alliance plans to hold a protest outside commission’s office on Jan 19


Saqib Virk January 14, 2021
File photo

ISLAMABAD:

The scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has summoned two major opposition parties – the PML-N and PPP – in the foreign funding and funding from “prohibited” sources case on January 18 – a day before the opposition alliance – the PDM plans to lodge its protest in front of the commission’s office.

The ruling PTI has also been directed to appear before the inquiry panel on January 20.

The PML-N is required to appear before the scrutiny committee at noon while the PPP is summoned at 2pm on January 18. The notices for the purpose have been issued to both the parties.

Ruling party’s Farrukh Habib had approached the commission in October 2017 to seek scrutiny of the funding record of both the parties for years 2013-2015.

In two separate complaints, the ruling party maintained that the PML-N and PPP had concealed their sources of funds and companies registered by them in the UK and the USA, respectively, and sought cancellation of election symbols allocated to them “for their failure to meet legal requirements for eligibility to obtain the symbols”.

The complaint against the PML-N noted that the party in its accounts had relied on audit by non-quality control review-rated firms, which adopted a “wrong” procedure for reporting.

No sources of funds have been declared, the accounts are contradictory, do not comply with the mandatory requirements of the Political Parties Order (PPO) or the Political Parties Rules (PPR) and exhibited violation of articles 6 and 13 of the PPO read with rules 4 and 6 of the PPR, it said.

The complainant observed that the PML-N had received funds from “other revenue” but was unable to tell what these other revenues were and how these could generate such an exorbitant fund.

“This revenue could be coming from a foreign company or foreign government or from a multinational but no disclosure is being made clearly in order to conceal this information so that nobody can question the person or organisation which is sending these funds.”

Deliberating on the reports that the PML-N had spent Rs1.3 billion on its election campaign in 2013, the complaint noted that “none of this amount or even part of this amount is explained as to how it was generated and what the source of funds was”.

The complaint alleged that the PML-N had been running a private limited company in the UK of which there was no mention in the documents submitted to the ECP.

Meanwhile, the complaint against the PPP observed that the account statements of the party between 2009 and 2012 were not available either due to non-filing or for reasons better known to the party.

The complaint questioned the party’s source of funds stating that the accounts of 2013 started with an opening balance of Rs41.47 million from the previous years, however, where the amount of the opening balance was generated from was not disclosed.

The complaint further maintained that the PPP had a company registered under US laws namely the PPP LLC, which had been formed to collect funds for the party.

“This is against the spirit of the PPO as contributions from foreigners or the Government of Pakistan, are prohibited under the PPO. Furthermore, the PPP has failed to disclose the existence of this LLC established in USA,” the complaint read.

Meanwhile, the scrutiny panel on Thursday reviewed the reply submitted by the PTI in the foreign funding case.

The ruling party in its reply had maintained that it only authenticated the funds received from the PTI America LLC.

The reply said that the PTI appointed Pakistanis as agents out of the country for collection of funds and added that as per the instructions of the party chairman, the agents were only allowed to receive money from the permissible sources.

The agents submitted an affidavit saying that the funds were collected as per the party policy and that the money collected from the people of Pakistan origin was sent through banks.

The PTI has been asked to appear before the ECP scrutiny committee on January 20.

Speaking to media after the hearing, petitioner Akbar S Babar criticised the ECP saying it was acting “under pressure”. He said the scrutiny committee had met 80 times and demanded its proceedings to be kept open.

He said the PTI had concealed two companies in the United States from the ECP.

The committee, headed by ECP director general (law), was constituted in March 2018 to complete audit of PTI accounts for the period 2009-13 in a month’s time. Later, its term was extended. The ECP on June 2, 2020 gave a final deadline to the committee for the submission of its report by August 17. Subsequently, the committee concluded scrutiny on August 13.

The foreign funding case against PTI continues since November 2014 when it was filed by the party’s founding member Akbar S Babar.

Babar alleged financial irregularities in the ruling party’s accounts including illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank accounts in the country and abroad, money laundering, and using private bank accounts of PTI employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East.

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