ECP has right to audit parties’ funds

SC tells PTI lawyer

Staff Reporter

Islamabad

Akram Sheikh, the lawyer representing PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi before the Supreme Court, claimed on Monday that the Pakistan Tehreek-e -Insaaf (PTI) had submitted “fraudulent” and “incomplete” documents before the apex bench. A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, was hearing the petition submitted by Abbasi seeking the disqualification of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PTI Secretary General Jahangir Tareen for the non-disclosure of assets, ownership of offshore companies, and for PTI being a foreign-aided party.
Last week, the PTI had submitted before the bench its overseas financial accounts, letters regarding fund-raising and accounting policies, internal and external audit controls, a list of countries whose dual nationality is accepted in Pakistan, PTI by-laws, as well as a list of funds received from PTI-USA LLC.
The party had reiterated in a fresh application that it had not received any money from prohibited sources and that no money was received from foreigners.
During Monday’s proceedings, Abbasi’s counsel argued that the documents submitted by the PTI contained discrepancies.
He stated that the list of donors provided by the PTI was not available on the website of the Foreign Agents Regulatory Authority (FARA) of the United States.
“The PTI has prepared this list itself,” Sheikh said.
Sheikh further said that the PTI had received $217,750 from PTI-USA LLC as opposed to $191,913 which was the sum shown in the documents submitted by the party before the court.
“The difference of $98,619 indicates that the documents were forged,” Sheikh said.
“The PTI will have to show that it did not accept prohibited funds,” the chief justice remarked. “Did the party accept foreign funds? Which forum will investigate the matter of foreign funding? We are hearing this case on the basis of these questions,” he added.
Presenting his arguments before the bench, PTI’s lawyer Anwar Mansoor once again referred to the petitioner’s contention that foreign funds were remitted to the party from prohibited sources, because of names like “Jadhav”. “Can’t Jadhav be the name of a Pakistani?” he asked. In a previous hearing at the SC, the lawyer had slammed Abbasi for trying to imply that members of the minority communities cannot be Pakistanis.
The lawyer contended that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) does not have the jurisdiction to hear cases pertaining to political parties accepting prohibited funds.
According to Section 13 of the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002, parties are required to submit the details of their assets before the ECP every year, the lawyer said. However, he added that the ECP could not conduct an audit of the party’s funding.
“If a party receives funds after it has submitted the details of its assets to the ECP, is the commission required to seek out details of the newly acquired funds?” the chief justice asked.
Mansoor replied that the law does not say anything on the matter, arguing that the private accounts of a political party cannot be publicized.
“How can a party’s accounts be private?” the chief justice asked in response.
Mansoor also told the bench that the law does not require the parliament members to declare their assets.
“Every year, the ECP makes [the accounts] public for the sake of transparency,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked.
According to the law, every party has to present its accounts and the ECP has to examine them, said the chief justice, adding that the court would have to see whether the PTI had accepted foreign funds. “What forum would take action if it was found out that they [foreign funds] were accepted?”
The bench asked Mansoor if it was true that the records submitted before the courts were not available on the FARA website. “The court has been provided with the list of amounts that have come to Pakistan,” Mansoor told the bench, adding the list of donors did not include those who give less than $50.
“Should we declare this record bogus on the basis that it was not submitted to FARA?” the chief justice asked.
Justice Bandyal said that the lawyer was attempting to argue that the objectionable amounts had been spent abroad; whereas the funds that came to Pakistan were legal. “This means that to some extent prohibited funds were accepted,” he added. The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday morning.

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