August 2, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
LAHORE: The Election Commission of Pakistan has ruled that Pakistan Tehrik Insaf received prohibited funding from foreign individuals and companies, seeking an explanation from the party as to why funds received should not be confiscated as provided under the law.
The ECP ruling came on a case filed by PTI founding member Akbar S Babar in November 14, 2014. A three-member ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander (CEC) Sultan Raja, announced the unanimous verdict in the 8-year-long case on August 2. The ECP had reserved judgment in the case on June 21.
Govt hints at declaring PTI foreign-aided political party
Responding to the ECP verdict, federal ministers Azam Nazeer Tarar and Interior Minister Rana Sanullah said the ministries of law, interior and parliamentary affairs would prepare a briefing for the federal cabinet which could subsequently initiate proceedings of declaring the PTI as a foreign-aided political party and move a reference before the Supreme Court for the dissolution of the party and disqualification of its parliamentary members in the National Assembly and Senate as well as provincial assembly members.
On the other hand, PTI leaders announced that the party would challenged the ECP ruling in the Islamabad High Court, adding that the funding received was from overseas Pakistanis and not from foreigners as stated in the verdict.
According to the verdict, the PTI had received a total of $5.12 million dollars, Rs 220 million and British Sterling pounds 792, 265 from foreigners, foreign firms and Pakistani companies in the United States, Britain, Canada, and Australia, falling under sources of prohibited funding.
“The PTI knowingly and willfully received donations from Wootton cricket limited registered in Cayman island which was operated and owned by a business tycoon Mr. Arif Masood Naqvi the owner of Abraaj Group,” the verdict said, adding that the PTI was willing recipient of prohibited money of US $ 2, 121,500 from the businessman.
The ECP ruling said the ‘PTI knowingly and willfully received donations from Bristol Engineering services UAE based company, an amount of US $ 49,965/- into its accounts in Pakistan which are hit by prohibition in violation of Pakistani laws’.
“The PTI knowingly and willfully received donations from E-Planet Trustees a Cayman island Private registered company trust, based in Zurich Switzerland, and SS Marketing, Manchester a UK based private company. From both the companies an amount of US $ 101,741/- into its accounts in Pakistan which are hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws.”
The ECP also termed that an amount of over US $ 2.5 million the PTI received from its two US-based companies that solicited donations from there also came under prohibited funding. Similarly, the ruling also declared donations sent by the party-established companies in Canada and United Kingdom were prohibited under Pakistani laws.
“PTI Pakistan, through fundraising campaigns by PTI USA LLC-6160 and PTI USA LLC-5975, was a recipient of donations from 34 foreign nationals and 351 foreign-based companies. Collection of donations and contributions from foreign nationals and companies are hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws,” the ruling said.
The electoral watchdog also said that the PTI had been found to be a beneficiary of donations made by Romita Shetty, a US-based business woman of Indian-origin which was in violation of the law.
The ECP said the party had only owned eight accounts before the commission and declared 13 accounts to be unknown. “The data obtained from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reveals that all the 13 accounts disowned by the PTI were opened and operated by senior PTI management and leadership at [a] central and provincial level.”
The commission noted that the party also failed to mention three accounts which were also being operated by the party’s senior leadership. Non-disclosure and concealment of 16 bank accounts by the PTI is a “serious lapse” on part of the PTI’s leadership and in violation of Article 17(3) of the Constitution, it said.
Article 17(3) says: “Every political party shall account for the source of its funds in accordance with the law.”
The PTI chairman submitted Form-I for five years (between 2008-2013) which was found to be “grossly inaccurate on the basis of the financial statements obtained by this commission from SBP and other material available on record”.
“Therefore […] the matter falls within the ambit of Article 6(3) of Political Parties Order 2002 (PPO). Hence, the commission directs that a notice may be issued to the respondent party in terms of Rule 6 of the PPO as to why the aforementioned prohibited funds may not be confiscated. The office is also directed to initiate any other action under the law in light of this order of the commission, including forwarding the case to the federal government.”
Article 6(3) of the PPO states: “Any contribution made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign government, multinational or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association shall be prohibited and the parties may accept contributions and donations only from individuals.”
Imran Khan filed submissions which were grossly inaccurate and wrong: ruling
In its order, the commission also said that it was “constrained to hold that Imran Khan failed to discharge his obligations as mandated under the Pakistani statutes.”
The PTI chairman has for five successive years submitted Form-I and signed a certificate which is not consistent with the accounting information before us, it said.
“Imran Khan, for the five years under review, has filed submissions that were grossly inaccurate and wrong. Even during the course of scrutiny and hearing by this commission, the PTI continued to conceal and withhold complete and full disclosure of [the] source of its funds,” it said.
PTI to move IHC against ECP verdict
Reacting to the ruling, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar said his party would challenge the ECP verdict in the Islamabad High Court, adding that the party would file a separate contempt petition against the electoral watchdog for not announcing verdict of similar funding cases against Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz as per instrcutions of the Supreme Court.
The PTI leader claimed the party had disclosed all its accounts, their details and submissions contrary to what the ECP said in its ruling. He said the ECP had given its decision while ignoring the evidence submitted by the PTI.
Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said that most of the money was from overseas Pakistanis. He maintained that this was never a case of “foreign funding”, adding that this had been proven by the ECP’s decision. He went on to say that the accounts that were supposedly undeclared were not directly linked with the PTI chief.