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ISLAMABAD: A day after Prime Minister Imran Khan called for an open trial in Foreign Funding case, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Thursday dismissed the possibility of an open hearing in this case saying public hearing could create ‘difficulties’ for the Scrutiny Committee in its proceedings.

“The mandate of Scrutiny Committee is of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT). Therefore, it cannot hold public hearings — otherwise, the committee could face difficulties in its functioning,” the ECP said in what came as an obvious yet implied response to the PM’s demand regarding open hearing of Foreign Funding case.

Earlier on Wednesday, the premier, during his visit to Wana, South Waziristan, had called for an open trial in Foreign Funding case and he challenged opposition parties to “face Foreign Funding case like PTI.”

The ECP said the proceedings of this case take place in the presence of stakeholders, media and relevant personnel/institutions.

The committee hears the arguments of the complainant(s) and the defendant(s) and analyses them— The committee would send its recommendations to the ECP for its consideration, the electoral body said in a statement.

The commission would share its recommendations with both sides and get their viewpoint on it before taking a final decision in the case, the statement added.

The Scrutiny Committee continues to work on Foreign Funding case, it said.

The proceedings of Scrutiny Committee in Foreign Funding case saw a dramatic end Wednesday when the entire-three-member committee ‘walked out’ after Akbar Sher Babar voiced no-confidence in the committee, accused it of being partisan and concealing the facts to favour to the ruling party; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

“You don’t trust us so there is no point in our sitting here and hear this case anymore,” sources quoted ECP Director General (Law) and Chairman Scrutiny Committee Muhammad Arshad as having told Babar before the committee walked out and the proceedings ended abruptly.

Babar told the media later that he expressed no-confidence in the committee for not providing any details of the 23 ‘secret’ bank accounts of PTI. “I trust ECP but I don’t trust Scrutiny Committee,” he said.

In response to Babar’s allegations, ECP accused him of trying to pressurise the Scrutiny Committee and disrupt the proceedings of Foreign Funding case.

“During the proceedings of Foreign Funding case, the petitioner and his consul repeatedly tried to disrupt the official business and tried to pressurise the Scrutiny Committee. The Scrutiny Committee assured the petitioner that it would submit its observations and recommendations to ECP without accepting any pressure. The committee also made it clear that it would not bow down to pressure from anyone in this case,” ECP said in a statement.

The PTI recently submitted the record of 40,000 overseas donors in the Foreign Funding case including the names, addresses, identity card numbers, contact numbers, bank accounts numbers, details of related transactions of overseas donors, details of related bank transactions, bank statements and receipts of relevant financial activities.

On the other hand, both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have denied receiving any funding from abroad.

An ECP official told Business Recorder that PTI has an ‘edge’ over the two opposition parties in this case—in the sense that it has already openly admitted having received funds from overseas Pakistanis and that these funds were not obtained from prohibited sources. On the contrary, both PML-N and PPP deny receiving any funds from their overseas supporters.

“This is something hard to believe. These two parties could be in trouble if proved wrong. This is probably the reason opposition leaders are not happy with proceedings of Foreign Funding case,” the source said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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