Pak’s top election body reserves verdict in prohibited funding case against Imran Khan’s PTI

Islamabad: Pakistan’s top election body on Tuesday reserved its judgement in the much-delayed prohibited funding case against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of former prime minister Imran Khan.

A founding Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member, Akbar S Babar, had filed the case in 2014 with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), alleging his party of financial irregularities in the funds received from different foreign donors.

The party, however, has denied any wrongdoing and maintains the funding is not from prohibited sources.

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After endless delays and squabbling, a bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja concluded the hearing, but instead of giving the verdict, he announced that the ECP would also like to conclude similar cases against other political parties.

He didn’t give any deadline for issuing the verdict but told the respondents that they would be summoned if and when needed.

Earlier, Babar’s financial expert, Arsalan Wardag, told the court that the PTI received funding from the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, arguing that the party had 11 accounts that it acknowledged it had not disclosed.

He further said that the PTI never disclosed the source of several donors from abroad. However, he was reminded by the CEC that PTI lawyer, Anwar Mansoor Khan, had given his arguments regarding the lack of details of donors because such details were not required by law at the time of funding.

When Babar tried to tell the ECP chief that political parties should be held accountable to set an example, the CEC said that democracy must be strengthened by restoring voters’ confidence.

“We will make sure that justice is done to all. I am grateful to both sides, I have learned a lot,” the commissioner added.

He went on to add that the case was a matter of national interest and soon cases of other parties would also be finalised. “We will ensure that no one is discriminated against.”

The case has been a source of political wrangling as parties opposed to the PTI accused the ECP for failing to conclude the case, while the PTI insisted that accounts of all major parties should be checked by the ECP instead of singling it out.

According to the ECP, one of the reasons for the delay was a scrutiny committee, formed in March 2018 to examine the PTI’s foreign funding in one month, finally submitted its report in January this year.

The report showed that the PTI leadership had committed gross violations of funding laws by allowing the collection of funds from foreigners.

Babar later told the media that his objective was to make the PTI as a role model. I did not have any personal [grudge] or ego [issue],” he said.

PTI’s Farrukh Habib called on the ECP to conclude the hearings of similar cases against Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

“For seven years, we have heard that this is a foreign funding case. Now the ECP also ultimately recognised the fact that it was a case of prohibited funding,” he said, adding that the PTI funding was done through banking channels and it would come out clean.

The verdict in the case is of paramount importance as the ECP can ban the party in case of serious wrongdoings and also confiscate its funds.

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