PTI plea to review ECP decision rejected

Inquiry panel also bars auditors from using laptops while reviewing papers related to foreign funding case


Our Correspondent April 28, 2021
File photo

ISLAMABAD:

The Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) scrutiny committee on Tuesday dismissed an application filed by the PTI to review the electoral body’s decision to allow estranged party leader Akbar S Babar access to the documents related to the ruling party’s foreign funding case.

The committee also stopped Babar's team of auditors from using laptops during the proceedings as it has been permitted to only review the documents in the presence of the members of the body and denied permission to take them in possession.

Babar filed a petition with the ECP against the committee's move.

The members of the committee and lawyers representing the PTI objected to Babar and his team of auditors using laptops while examining the record, suspending the proceedings.

The committee also rejected Babar's written permission seeking the use of laptops.

The estranged PTI leader then filed a petition with the ECP against the committee’s decision contending that how would the auditors write down such a massive amount of data if the use of laptops was not allowed.

“The scrutiny committee is itself an obstacle to the scrutiny process,” he added.

“It's not possible to take down all the notes by hand and the laptops were for convenience.”

The petitioner sought the ECP's permission to use laptops during the proceedings and also said the committee should have resigned in August 2020, when the ECP had expressed its lack of confidence in it.

Separately, a three-member commission of the ECP, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, directed all parties to submit their financial details to the electoral body as soon as possible.

The commission was hearing PTI's application for an investigation into the accounts of political parties.

Lawyer Shah Khawar appeared on behalf of the petitioner, PTI MNA Amir Kayani.
Representatives of other parties including PPP’s Farhatullah Babar and the PML-N also appeared before the commission.

The chief election commissioner directed the political parties, which had not responded to the commission’s queries, to submit their replies. The matter was adjourned till May 26.

Earlier this year, the PTI lawyer had submitted “complete details” of the party funding to the inquiry committee and expressed the hope that ruling party would be “honourably acquitted” in the case.

On the other hand, petitioner Babar raised objections over the investigation by the scrutiny committee saying the panel wanted to dispose of the matter in haste.

He alleged that the inquiry panel was trying to “protect” the ruling party and added that the ECP had also expressed no confidence in it in the past.

The petitioner also announced that he would write a book on the action taken by the scrutiny committee.
Earlier in September 2020, the ECP had rejected the scrutiny panel’s report against the PTI as “incomplete”.

The ECP in an order maintained that the report was neither complete nor detailed.

“The Scrutiny Committee on the basis of documents provided by both the parties and collected from the State Bank has neither scrutinised the record nor evaluated the evidence from the documents and failed to form definite opinion,” the ECP said.

The committee, headed by ECP director general (law), was formed 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 report submission by August 17. Subsequently, the committee concluded scrutiny on August 13.

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

Babar alleged serious 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.

Meanwhile, the PTI had approached the commission in October 2017 to seek scrutiny of funding record of the PML-N and the PPP for years 2013-2015.

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