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ISLAMABAD: The head of Scrutiny Committee hearing Foreign Funding case told Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday that this case “would never end if it keeps taking new turns.”

The development surfaced during the hearing of a petition moved by Akbar Sher Babar, the petitioner against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Foreign Funding case, regarding Scrutiny Committee’s decision to not share PTI’s bank accounts’ record with the petitioner.

An ECP bench heard the case. During the hearing, Member ECP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) former Justice Irshad Qaiser asked ECP Director General (Law) and Chairman Scrutiny Committee Muhammad Arshad why the Scrutiny Committee proceedings were not completed.

He categorically replied, “These proceedings will never end if this case kept taking new turns. The petitioner (Akbar S Babar) daily comes up with new petitions in the case.”

The chairman Scrutiny Committee strongly defended his decision to keep the details of 23 bank accounts of PTI classified by not sharing them with the petitioner. He said he was legally empowered to do so as head of the Scrutiny Committee and that he was not answerable in that regard. The relevant record of PTI’s finances could not be shared with Babar, he said, adding the onus of responsibility— to prove allegations levelled against the respondents— was on the petitioner.

The ECP then sought written reply from the Scrutiny Committee regarding the timeframe for the completion of Foreign Funding case proceedings.

Babar, the petitioner, demanded to be handed over the details of 23 PTI bank accounts. He said he would submit a report into ‘forensic audit’ of these 23 accounts to the Scrutiny Committee for further consideration by the ECP.

The ECP issued notices to Scrutiny Committee and PTI in the case. PTI’s counsel took the stance that the respondents received the notice only on Monday and sought time to furnish reply. ECP Member (Punjab) former Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi expressed surprise—as to how could the respondents be not intimated timely regarding the notice.

The case was adjourned till March 30.

“Why did ECP not complete audit of PTI accounts in three years?” Babar commented, speaking to media outside ECP after the case hearing.

He demanded that the details of ‘six international bank accounts of PTI’ be made public while accusing the respondents of using delaying tactics in the case.

It merits mentioning here that PTI had already submitted the entire record of all the 40,000 overseas donors to the Scrutiny Committee in Foreign Funding case.

The record including the details of donations from overseas Pakistanis including LCC (Life Cycle Costing) account, the names, addresses, computerised national identity card numbers and contact numbers of the overseas donors, the details of related bank transactions, relevant bank statements, and receipts of relevant financial activities were submitted by the PTI to the committee.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the other two parties in the case, are yet to submit their detailed financial record in the case.

On January 6, ECP expressed concern over slow pace of progress in Foreign Funding case and directed Scrutiny Committee to meet thrice a week to complete proceedings of the case but ECP again failed to give any deadline to the committee regarding the completion of its pending report on the case.

In the previous report that Scrutiny Committee submitted to ECP, responsibility was not fixed against anyone, which was the major reason the electoral body rejected as incomplete this report on August 27 last year.

The ECP then directed the committee to start afresh its probe, fix responsibility in the case, (if there is clear evidence), and submit the report on October 22, 2020, but Scrutiny Committee failed to meet this deadline. The ECP then asked the committee to submit its report “at the earliest” without giving any deadline.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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