The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday issued notices to respondents on the maintainability of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) petition for August 24 against the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the prohibited funding verdict.
A three-member bench headed by acting chief justice Amir Farooq, comprising Justice Babar Sattar and Justice Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the case whereas the PTI was represented by its counsel Anwar Mansoor Khan.
During the hearing, Justice Farooq said the court could not bar the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from acting against the PTI on the basis of facts even if the ECP report contested by the former ruling party in the case is set aside. He said FIA will only determine if any criminality was involved in this case.
The PTI lawyer accused the FIA of harassment in the wake of the ECP report and said that he could have taken his case to the election watchdog once again but the observations made by the ECP were beyond its mandate. He further argued that since the ECP was not a tribunal, it could not give declarations against PTI chief Imran Khan.
Speaking about the case in the ECP, Anwar Mansoor said the funding case was taken to the ECP by a former PTI leader and added that the matter also came under consideration in the Supreme Court (SC) in 2017 during the hearing of the Hanif Abbasi case.
In 2018, the ECP started scrutiny when the SC said that all political parties should be scrutinised by the election watchdog, he said, claiming that only the PTI was being targeted.
The PTI's counsel read out the SC ruling wherein the ECP was asked to “act without discrimination”. Mansoor said he had placed the “entire record” before the ECP to show that nothing was concealed from the ECP.
Mansoor added that in 2018, the scrutiny of the accounts of all the parties started, but the Election Commission only took action against PTI and applied the Political Parties Ordinance (PPO) Act 2002, but the scrutiny committee relied on a different law for its report.
Justice Amir Farooq asked how this could happen.
The lawyer said $13,000 came from the joint account of one Nassar married to Ramita Shetty, but the election commission itself assumed that half of the money was from Ramita Shetty and the other half from her husband.
He also alleged that PTI’s agents were dubbed as foreign companies in the ECP report and added that the party never hid donations from the Wootton Cricket Club in 2013.
The law didn’t say that funds were only to be taken from individuals and not organisations, he maintained.
The court observed that the law does mention that funds were to be taken from individuals only. “Do you seek removal of the observation of the Election Commission? This is only a report, not an action of the ECP,” the court said, adding that so far only a show cause notice had been issued.
The PTI lawyer responded that this was an action against the Imran-led party as the ECP declared it a matter of Article 17, with the federal government and FIA taking action against the party on the basis of this report.
“We want that any observation made by the election commission, beyond its mandate, needs to be suspended,” he added.
Justice Sattar asked him to share his reservations regarding the investigation against the PTI, remarking that “it is not the 1970s that a party could be dissolved in a bout of madness”.
“We cannot correct the facts of the fact-finding report,” added Justice Amir Farooq.
It is pertinent to note that the ECP’s verdict in the prohibited funding case against the PTI had been challenged in the IHC by the party earlier this week.
In its plea, filed by the PTI's additional secretary general Omar Ayyub, the party had requested the IHC to declare the ECP’s decision, delivered on August 2, illegal. Moreover, the PTI had called for the decision to be annulled along with the show cause notice sent to the party for not declaring 13 'unknown' accounts that were found linked to it.
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