Islamabad Politics Report / Moazzsm Raza Tabassam:
Today marks the fourth anniversary of the PTI Foreign Funding Case. The case was filed on November 14, 2014 by PTI founding member and former Central Vice President Akbar S. Babar after developing differences with PTI Chairman Imran Khan over alleged corruption and illegal funding of PTI.
The case gained national prominence as it took several twists and turns but continues to await a final verdict.
On April 1, 2015 the ECP passed its first substantive order in the case when it disregarded PTI’s objections about ECP jurisdiction and declared that PTI annual audit reports did not include sources and details of foreign funding, a requirement under law. Instead of complying with the order of submitting details of foreign funding, PTI changed its lawyer and again challenged the ECP jurisdiction.
On October 8, 2015, the ECP passed a detailed order rejecting PTI’s challenges to its jurisdiction and ordered PTI to submit financial details. Instead of complying with the ECP order, PTI again challenged the ECP order before a double bench of the IHC on November 26, 2015. After a 15 month delay, on February 15, 2017, the double bench of IHC remanded the case back to the ECP to review its jurisdiction and the PTI membership of Akbar S. Babar to establish his locus standi in the case.
On May 8, 2017 a five member bench of the ECP passed a detailed order once again reasserting its jurisdiction over scrutiny of PTI accounts and declared that there is not an iota of evidence that Akbar S. Babar has been expelled from PTI and therefore remains a member of the party.
After failing to comply with repeated ECP orders to produce financial statements, in January 2017 Imran Khan accused ECP of bias and prejudice. On the petitioner’s complaint of contempt, the ECP issued show cause notice to Imran Khan for using ‘derogatory remarks against the Commission thereby scandalizing the Commission which tends to bring the Commission to hatred, ridicule and contempt.’ After several hearings, Imran Khan decided to personally appear before the ECP and offer his unconditional apology to settle the contempt matter.
However, despite the apology and public pronouncements of complying with ECP orders, the PTI continued to challenge ECP scrutiny on one pretext or another. The fourth such petition in the IHC was dismissed by a single bench on July 24, 2018 declaring that Akbar S. Babar is still a member of PTI.
The single bench order has since been challenged by PTI before a double bench of the IHC.
In between, on March 27, 2018 the ECP finally ordered scrutiny of PTI accounts by a special committee. The DG, Law heads the three member Scrutiny Committee with a initial mandate to complete scrutiny of PTI foreign funding in one month. However, the mandate had to be extended by two months as PTI continued to stall repeated demands of the Committee to submit ten financial instruments including bank statements and details of all the bank accounts held by the party inside Pakistan and abroad. After PTI continued to stall production of financial statements, the mandate of the Committee was extended indefinitely and ECP decided to request the State Bank of Pakistan on July 3, 2018 to order banks to produce complete details of PTI foreign funding for the period 2009 to 2013. The PTI bank statements have since been submitted to the ECP but the Scrutiny Committee has yet to finalize its scrutiny and submit a final report before the ECP to pass a final judgment.
The case is unique in another way as PTI has repeatedly changed its lawyer over the four years. Its initial counsel was Shoaib Shaheen who was replaced with former Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan who was then replaced with Babar Awan who has since been replaced with Anwar Mansoor Khan again. Since he has assumed the charge of Attorney General of Pakistan, another change may be in the offing.
Talking to this correspondent, the petitioner and PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar stated that the case trail is an indictment against PM Imran Khan’s politics of change. It is an eye opener and a case study on how PTI and its leadership were allowed to systematically toy with the system to escape accountability.
He said even after four years of litigation, the case still awaits a verdict while Imran Khan, who used every trick in the book and beyond to scuttle scrutiny of PTI accounts, continues to champion the cause of accountability now as the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.