Dangers for PTI

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AFTER about eight years of proceedings, punctuated by numerous delaying tactics, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) finally announced its long-awaited verdict in PTI’s foreign funding case, confirming that the party did receive prohibited funding and as a consequence a show cause notice has been issued to the party asking why the funds should not be confiscated as per relevant law.

A three-member ECP Bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja issued a unanimous 68-page verdict declaring that PTI received funds from thirty four foreign nationals, 351 foreign companies including those from the United States and concealed thirteen accounts from the Election Commission of Pakistan in violation of Political Parties Order 2002 and Article-17(3) of Constitution of Pakistan.

It also held that Form-1 submitted by Imran Khan as Party Chairman was found to be grossly inaccurate.

The constituent parties of the coalition government are understandably excited over findings of the Commission with Federal Ministers indicating that the government was mulling over several options in the light of the verdict, which also include putting PTI leaders on the Exit Control List (ECL) and sending a reference to the Supreme Court as per Article-17 (3) of the Constitution to ban the party.

Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar has also hinted at approaching the apex court to seek legal action against former Prime Minister Imran Khan for submitting a “fake affidavit” to the electoral body.

Information Minister Marrium Aurangzeb has also categorically stated that the Government would implement the verdict of the ECP in letter and spirit, without explaining what would be the next course of action.

On the other hand, PTI leaders have played down the outcome of the case saying the party has only been served with a show cause notice, which would be responded to.

The party claimed that “no foreign funding has been proven”, and that the verdict has only exposed “another propaganda” of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

Irrespective of politically-motivated rhetoric, it has to be seen what practical measures the government takes in the next few days in the light of the findings of the Commission and what would be the response of the judiciary if it was approached by either side.

It is, however, quite evident that PTI would find itself in deep trouble as the report casts aspersions on honesty and truthfulness of its leadership and confirms that the party received funding from illegal sources.

The report/verdict cannot be brushed aside as such because these are no more mere allegations but findings of an institution.

Otherwise too, the allegations were levelled by an insider – Akbar S Babar – one of the founding members of the PTI and the verdict is the product of eight years of proceedings and evidence submitted by the complainant as well as State Bank of Pakistan and other relevant agencies and that too provided during tenure of the party itself.

PTI has announced to challenge the verdict but on the face of it, it would be difficult for the party to defend its case before the court of law in the presence of strong institutional evidence.

The finding of the Commission would also have serious implications for PTI’s narrative against the parties forming coalition government and its own affairs and conduct.

The PTI throughout has been levelling allegations of corruption and described the present government as an imported one but now similar titles are being assigned to it by its opponents.

PTI has also been raising the slogan of transparency, merit and fair-play but findings of the Commission say otherwise.

The outcome also explains why PTI was forcefully making demands for new appointments in the Election Commission when the institution was functioning and delivering perfectly as per law and the Constitution and the way it conducted recent by-elections in Punjab has earned it appreciation of the Supreme Court as well.

It is now quite obvious that PTI knew what could be the outcome of the proceedings and that is why it tried its level best to pressurize the ECP.

Leaving aside political fallout of the verdict, it may be pointed out that it highlights non-transparent working of the political parties and it is time they streamline their affairs in consonance with the dictates of the relevant laws.

 

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