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ISLAMABAD: The electoral body on Tuesday rejected the request of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for not to make public the report of Scrutiny Committee into party’s finances in ‘Foreign Funding Case’ till the arrival of Scrutiny Committees’ reports of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) while the commission sought progress reports from the scrutiny panels regarding probe into accounts of the two opposition parties within 10 days.

A three-member bench of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) led by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and comprising of Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi heard the high-profile case 16 months after it first directed the Scrutiny Committee to furnish report into PTI’s finances by August 2020.

During the hearing, PTI’s counsel Advocate Shah Khawar requested the bench that the Foreign Funding Case related to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) be heard simultaneously, once the reports of Scrutiny Committees related to the two opposition parties were received. He also requested the electoral body not to make public Scrutiny Committee’s report related to PTI till the arrival of related reports concerning the N-League and PPP. “How can we stop this report from being made public,” remarked Durrani, the Member ECP.

The CEC seconded him. “Do we have the authority to stop anyone from making a report public,” he asked the PTI counsel. “We cannot do that,” Raja added. The bench then directed that copies of the Scrutiny Committee’s report related to PTI’s accounts be provided to all the parties in the case. On PTI’s request, the bench directed the Scrutiny Committees investigating the funding of PML-N and PPP to furnish progress reports into related probes within 10 days The case has been adjourned for 15 days.

Later, speaking to media outside ECP, Planning Minister Asad Umar said the ECP also formed Scrutiny Committees to probe PML-N and PPP accounts in Foreign Funding Case. “The Scrutiny Committees’ reports about these two parties should also be furnished like that of PTI,” he said. The minister said Foreign Funding Case would have “positive effects on Pakistan’s political landscape if probed impartially and thoroughly.” Information State Minister Farrukh Habib also demanded that Scrutiny Committees reports related to PML-N and PPP be furnished “so that everything comes out in black and white.” He said ECP should hear Foreign Funding Case in an ‘open kachehri’.

Foreign funding case: ECP directs scrutiny committee to refurnish its report

However, Akbar Sher Babar, one of the founding members of PTI, who had moved the ECP accusing the PTI of being a foreign-funded party and seeking action against it in accordance with the related constitutional provisions, said: “The delay in concluding this case has cost Pakistan a bit too dearly. Had this case been concluded timely and logically, these rulers would not have been imposed on Pakistan.”

Ahsan Iqbal from PML-N said Prime Minister Imran Khan is looking for “lame excuses and delaying tactics to stop this case because his lies have been exposed.”

The ECP, last month, fixed Foreign Funding Case related to PTI for regular hearing from January 4 keeping in view that Scrutiny Committee submitted its report to the electoral body related to PTI in November.

On August 27 last year, the Scrutiny Committee submitted its first report to ECP regarding PTI’s finances in Foreign Funding Case but the commission rejected this report, termed it incomplete and directed the committee to refurnish the report latest by October 22, 2020, but the committee failed to meet this deadline.

On October 23, 2020, the ECP expressed ‘satisfaction’ over the Scrutiny Committee’s progress into Foreign Funding Case and allowed the panel to go ahead with the probe and complete the final report as ‘early as possible’ but did not specify any timeframe in this regard.

In November last year, the committee finally completed its probe and submitted the report to the ECP.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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