The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is likely to go ahead with the proceedings of the foreign funding case related to three major political parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), despite that the Commission has become dysfunctional after the retirement of Chief Election Commissioner former Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza on December 5.
A senior ECP official told Business Recorder that the term 'dysfunctional ECP' implies that the commission's functions related to the CEC and four ECP members have ceased to remain functional due to the Commission's incomplete formation.
The foreign funding case is not heard by the CEC and/or any of the ECP members and therefore the proceedings of this case would not be affected by the ECP going dysfunctional with the retirement of the CEC, the source said.
The ECP's Scrutiny Committee is hearing the foreign funding case which would continue its proceedings as per routine, the ECP official said. However, the committee, after concluding the case proceedings, has to submit its report to the foreign funding case to the Commission, which has to be reviewed by the CEC and the ECP members, before the verdict is announced.
"The Scrutiny Committee cannot announce verdict in foreign funding case. It can submit its report to the ECP and it's for the ECP to announce the verdict, which is not possible if the ECP is dysfunctional," the official said.
The three-member Scrutiny Committee is headed by ECP's Director General (Law) Muhammad Arshad as its chairman and includes DG (Audit) Defence Services Masood Akhtar Sherwani and Controller Accounts Air Force Muhammad Faheem as its members.
On December 6, Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (retd), a sitting ECP member, took oath as acting CEC but the ECP would remain dysfunctional due to its incomplete formation, sources said.
Constitutionally, the ECP comprises five top officials including a CEC and four members, and needs at least three of them for its formation to complete to take decisions by majority vote. In the absence of a CEC and two members, the ECP has been left with only two members one of whom, the senior one in terms of age, has assumed charge of the acting CEC.
In November 2014, Akbar Sher Babar, one of the founding members of the PTI, had moved the ECP accusing the PTI of being a foreign funded party and seeking action against it in accordance with related constitutional provisions.
The ECP on November 21 decided to accept the request of opposition parties to conduct on daily basis the hearings of the foreign funding case related to PTI and fixed November 26 as the date to commence proceedings of the case, after a gap of 20 months. Before the November 26 hearing, the ECP last held the regular hearing of foreign funding case in March 2018 when the Scrutiny Committee was formed to scrutinise the PTI funds.
The PTI also requested the ECP that the foreign funding case related to the PML-N and PPP should also be heard by the ECP. The ECP accepted this demand and also commenced proceedings of foreign funding case related to PML-N and PPP from November 26.
On June 15 this year, the ECP issued notices to all three major political parties PTI, PML-N and PPP to appear before the Scrutiny Committee on June 20. The notices were issued respectively on the petition of Farrukh Habib against PML-N and PPP and Akbar Babar's related petition against PTI. However, there was no headway in this regard at that time.
Shah Khawar is PTI's counsel in the case whereas Ahmad Hassan represents Akbar Babar. The PML-N is represented by Jahangir Jadoon and PPP is represented by Shehbaz Khosa.
Sources in ECP told Business Recorder that it is very difficult to establish that any political party is foreign funded because the Constitution bars foreign funding from any group or organisation but foreign funding is permissible by individuals to political parties in the electoral laws of Pakistan. "Political parties usually take funds from individuals, not groups or entities. It is therefore very difficult to establish that a political party has received funds from any group, and not an individual, and that it should be proceeded against as per law," said an ECP official.
Section 6 (3) of Political Parties Order 2002 reads, "Any contribution made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign government, multi-national or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association shall be prohibited and the parties may accept contributions and donations only from individuals."