Pressure and counter-pressure

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AS PTI persists in its campaign to pressurize the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), apparently on lame excuses, the Federal Cabinet, at its meeting in Islamabad on Thursday, decided to send a declaration against the party and its leadership to the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the basis of detailed verdict of the ECP in foreign funding case.

It also directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to launch an inquiry against the party leaders for the start of criminal proceedings against them on the charges of money-laundering and misuse of charity funds for political purposes.

Separately, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Thursday filed a reference with the Election Commission to disqualify PTI Chairman Imran Khan arguing that he did not declare the gifts received from the Toshakhana in his assets declaration and, therefore, should be disqualified under Article 62(1)(F) of the Constitution – the same provision under which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in 2017.

PTI is surely feeling the heat of the circumstances that are visibly against it and the next few weeks would determine the level of the threat to the party and its leadership and their consequent political future.

Imran Khan, quoting the victory of his party in the recently held by-elections, has maintained that the Government was unable to politically fight against his party and, therefore, it was using the ECP to knock him out on technical grounds.

Politically motivated statements of PTI leaders notwithstanding, the remarks about technical knockout is an acknowledgement that solid material exists against the party to proceed against it in the court of law with serious implications for its very survival.

However, at the same time, Imran Khan wondered what wrong he had committed that people had started talking about his disqualification, adding how collection of funds from Overseas Pakistanis can be considered as foreign funding.

This seems to be a simplistic view of a grim scenario as no one is talking about funding by Overseas Pakistanis but funds received from foreign nationals and entities and also diversion of funds received in the name of charity.

The party had claimed that those who raised slogans in Masjid-e-Nabvi against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his delegation committed no crime but a Saudi court has found them guilty of desecration and sentenced them to 10 year jail.

On the face of it, it would be next to impossible for PTI to defend its case before the Supreme Court as it could not do so in eight years when the case was being heard by the Election Commission.

Instead of presenting facts and evidence in favour of their claims, PTI relied entirely on repeated adjournments and a propaganda campaign which makes it quite evident that it has nothing substantial to defend its case.

Findings against the party have come from an institution and as per directions of the Federal Cabinet the FIA too would launch an inquiry against party leaders for the start of criminal proceedings on charges of money-laundering and misuse of charity funds for political purposes.

The FIA inquiry would also have inputs from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and other concerned organizations and as a result additional material/evidence could surface against the party in addition to the one that was provided to the Election Commission during tenure of PTI.

The party is levelling unsubstantiated allegations against the Election Commission and the Government but, in reality, the coalition government deserves credit for not moving in hurry to arrest the party leadership or put their names on the Exit Control List (ECL).

This is in sharp contrast to what people witnessed during rule of the PTI when opposition leaders were arrested and put behind bars on mere assumptions and the Government miserably failed to prove any wrongdoing against them in the courts of law.

Anyhow, the case would be heard by the apex court where the party as well as the Government side would have ample opportunity to present material and arguments to consolidate their claims.

Irrespective of the outcome of the entire move, there is no denying the fact that the country was moving in the dangerous direction due to inability of the two sides to engage into dialogue to sort out differences.

The only way out is the dialogue without pre-conditions, otherwise, apart from the country, the political parties could also suffer.

 

 

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