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EDITORIAL: The Election Commission of Pakistan in a unanimous verdict has ruled that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) did indeed receive prohibited funding from abroad and issued a notice to the party, asking why its funds should not be confiscated.

As per details spelt out in the ECP verdict, the PTI received funding from 34 foreign nationals and 351 foreign-based companies but owned only 8 accounts while hid 13 others. Not only ECP issued a show-cause notice to the PTI in terms of Rule 6 of PPR 2002, it has also directed ‘any other action’ under the law in the light of this order. To Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf it was coming, but it had succeeded in getting it deferred for eight years by seeking as many as 30 adjournments, filed six times for the case to be inadmissible.

In recent days, therefore, PTI stepped up its demand for resignation of Chief Election Commissioner, Sikandar Sultan Raja and his two colleagues through passage of resolutions against them in the assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - the two PTI-ruled provinces. According to the PTI legal team, the funding being an issue of accounts it is contestable in the court of law. But what about the commission’s ruling that asked the government to follow up the case against PTI as a political party under the law and its head Imran Khan who submitted “mis-declarations” about the party accounts and his candidature for election to the National Assembly? Here comes into play the constitutional jurisdiction. Article 17, which deals with freedom of association, demands that “Every party shall account for the sources of its funds in accordance with law”.

Following intensive search, the scrutiny committee, which was tasked to investigate sources of concerned party’s source/sources of funding, had concluded that the PTI did not speak the whole truth. As for Imran Khan, he too gave “wrong” information in his electoral nomination form, and thus “ran afoul” of Article 62(f) according to which a person shall not be elected or chosen as a member of parliament if he is not honest and ameen. Therefore, on the face of it, Imran Khan can face the prospect of disqualification.

However, the facts that PTI has the country’s largest vote bank and governments in two provinces and its chairman is still a formidable force to reckon with cannot be ignored. Also, his followers would like to know as to why only the PTI was singled out to face prohibited funding investigations while other parties may have been guilty of committing the same offence.

Of course, the ECP dealt with a complaint filed by a single person, but the issue was of universal nature, and needed to be clubbed with others positions on prohibited funding. Has the reburied ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ raised its ugly head again? Or, for an audacious Imran Khan, are the chickens finally coming home to roost? These could be described as pertinent questions with no easy answers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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