ECP pushed for early PTI funding verdict

Leaders of coalition parties meet with CEC, senior ECP officials, say verdict long overdue


Our Correspondent July 29, 2022
PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Monday, June 6. SCREENGRAB

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE:

Leaders of the ruling coalition from the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Friday met with senior officials of the Election Commission Pakistan (ECP), including the chief election commissioner (CEC), in an effort to convince the electoral body to announce its verdict reserved in the prohibited funding case involving the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Addressing a news conference after the meeting, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the joint delegation spoke with the ECP officials, urging them to “decide the case of prohibited foreign funding as soon as possible”.

“The prohibited funding case has been ongoing for eight years,” he said. “The election law says that if a party takes money from a foreign individual, it has to be declared.”

The PML-N leader said, “The people of Pakistan have the right to know where Imran Khan was taking money from.” In this regard, he said, the evidence was very clear.

“Money was sourced from outside and used for political purposes in Pakistan,” Abbasi said. “Imran Khan hid records from the election commission. PTI chairman is trying to pressure the CEC through personal attacks.”

Abbasi also referred to a Financial Times report during the media talk. It investigated how the PTI accrued funds through cricket matches organised under Wootton Cricket Ltd, a company owned by Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi.

The report titled ‘The strange case of the cricket match that helped fund Imran Khan’s political rise’ was published on Friday and said: “Naqvi transferred three instalments directly to the PTI in 2013 adding up to a total of $2.12 million.”

Abbasi said Naqvi organised cricket matches in London and collected millions from people in the name of philanthropic causes.

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He said it was on record that $2.12 million, amounting to Rs550 million, was transferred from Wootton Cricket Ltd’s accounts to those of Imran and the PTI. The former prime minister said that the report was published by Financial Times, a news outlet that could be taken to court over misreporting.

Further, Climate Minister Sherry Rehman also shared the report on Twitter.

Meanwhile, PTI leaders defended their party, saying that Naqvi had submitted an affidavit to the ECP, which stated that “all funding is legal”.

Fawad tweeted that if there was any illegality, “its between Naqvi and the UK authorities”.

Further, PTI Information Secretary Farrukh Habib also said that money from Wootton Cricket Ltd came into the PTI’s account through “legitimate channels”.

“The record of the money has been submitted to the ECP,” Habib said while addressing a news conference in Lahore.

“A cricket match was played in England and a political fundraiser was held in Dubai. Naqvi collected the money from overseas Pakistanis and sent it back to the country via Wootton Cricket Ltd.”

The case had been filed by Akbar S Babar, who is a dissident but a founding member of the PTI, and has been pending since November 14, 2014.

Babar had alleged serious financial irregularities in the party's funding from Pakistan and abroad.

Earlier in June, the electoral watchdog had listed the foreign funding case under ‘prohibited funding’ and reserved its judgment a week later.

The renewed vigour in the ruling coalition’s demand comes as it suffered a heavy blow in the Punjab by-polls and the subsequent Punjab chief minister’s election.

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