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IHC tosses out PTI petition challenging ECP’s prohibited funding verdict

IHC tosses out PTI petition challenging ECP’s prohibited funding verdict

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) dismissed on Thursday PTI’s petition challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) verdict in the party’s prohibited funding case.

The short verdict, which was reserved at the previous hearing, was pronounced by a three-member larger bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Babar Sattar. The detailed judgment is still awaited.

Last year, the electoral watchdog, in a unanimous verdict, had ruled that the party did receive millions of dollars in prohibited funds from 351 foreign companies and 34 foreign nationals, including a US-Indian businesswoman, and had ordered the issuance of a notice to the PTI, seeking an explanation as to why the prohibited funds it received should not be forfeited.

During the hearing today, the IHC said ECP’s fact-finding report in the case was correct and also endorsed its decision to issue a show-cause notice to the party.

In its petition submitted in the IHC, the party had said that the matter related to PTI’s funding was examined by the Supreme Court.

“Those legal issues were decided by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and in light of the dictum (legal principles or remarks made by judges that do not affect the outcome of the case) and ratio (judge’s ruling on a point of law, and not just a statement of the law) laid down by the SC the matter was referred back to the ECP for scrutiny of the accounts of all the political parties, including the PTI. Sadly, only PTI was targeted.”

The petitioner claimed that the case against the PTI pertained to an allegation of receiving “funds from prohibited source”.

The PTI in its petition argued: “Prohibited source of fund as provided under Article 6(3) of the Political Parties Order 2002 are contributions and donations received from foreign government or multinational or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association…”

“The party explained and reconciled each and every account through a financial expert orally as also by submitting a written financial summary, reconciling each and every transaction and, explaining all amounts received with its reconciliation with the audited accounts,” the petition said.

“However, in complete disregard to all the submissions and without giving any reasoning for such disregard, the respondent [ECP] passed the impugned fact-finding report,” it added.

The ECP was incomplete, the petition pointed out, “in the absence of the total number of members as defined in the Constitution and deficient representation from all provinces? If so, does it not disenfranchise the provincial representation on the ECP as envisaged by the Constitution of Pakistan permitting manipulation and outside political interference in the work of the ECP.”

The long-awaited decision in the funding case, which had been filed by PTI’s founding member Akbar S. Babar in November 2014, was announced on August 2.

The PTI had received millions of dollars from 351 foreign companies, 34 nationals, disowned 13 party accounts that senior PTI leaders opened and operated, the ECP declared in its ruling.

The ECP also said the party had only owned eight accounts before the commission and declared 13 accounts to be unknown. The commission noted that the party also failed to mention three accounts that were also being operated by the party’s senior leadership.

The verdict also stated that 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”.

The PTI said the verdict vindicated its stance that it never received foreign funding, but could be a case of prohibited funding, while the government considered the decision a “charge sheet” against “crimes” of the party and its chief Imran Khan.

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