ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s election commission (EC) ruled Tuesday that former PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was a “willing recipient” of $2,121,500 of prohibited funding from abroad and asked the party in a show-cause notice why the money should not be confiscated. It also hauled up the party leadership for operating undeclared bank accounts.
A three-member EC bench headed by commission’s chief Raja Sikandar Sultan declared in a unanimous verdict that PTI took donations from foreign companies and individuals from the US, UK, Australia, UAE and other countries in violation of the law.
Leaders of the coalition in office welcomed the verdict, saying the law will take its course. PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said there was no illegality and most of the funds came from overseas Pakistanis. He vowed to challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
The EC noted that Khan’s PTI “knowingly and wilfully” received funding from Wootton Cricket Limited, operated by Arif Naqvi, a business tycoon of Pakistani origin. Also, the party received donations from UAE-based Bristol Engineering Services, E-Planet Trustees, which is registered in the Cayman Islands, the UK-based SS Marketing Manchester, PTI USA LLC-6160 and PTI USA LLC-5975.
The EC said the party received donations through PTI Canada Corporation and PTI UK Public Limited Company as well as from Australia-based Dunpec Limited, and Pakistani companies Anwar Brothers, Zain Cotton and Young Sports in violation of the law.
“PTI Pakistan, through fundraising campaigns by PTI USA LLC-6160 and PTI USA LLC-5975, was a recipient of donations from 34 foreign nationals and 351 foreign-based companies. Collection of donations and contributions from foreign nationals and companies are hit by prohibition and in violation of Pakistani laws,” it said.
The election watchdog said PTI had been found to be a beneficiary of donations made by Romita Shetty, a US-based businesswoman of Indian-origin.
The commission found PTI guilty of hiding 13 bank accounts tied to the party. The party had declared only eight accounts before the commission. “The data obtained from State Bank of Pakistan reveals that all the 13 accounts disowned by PTI were opened and operated by senior PTI management and leadership at [a] central and provincial level,” the EC said.
The commission noted that the party failed to mention three more accounts that were being operated by its senior leadership. It held the PTI leadership responsible for the “serious lapse” of non-disclosure and concealment of 16 bank accounts in violation of Article 17(3) of the Constitution. “Every political party shall account for the source of its funds in accordance with the law,” Article 17(3) says.
The EC found documents submitted by PTI chief Imran Khan for five years (2008-2013) to be “grossly inaccurate on the basis of financial statements obtained by this commission from SBP and other material available on record”.
It said the matter falls within the ambit of violation of the Political Parties Order 2002 (PPO). “Hence, the commission directs that a notice may be issued to the respondent party as to why the aforementioned prohibited funds may not be confiscated. The office is also directed to initiate any other action under the law in light of this order of the commission, including forwarding the case to the federal government.”
PTI founding member Akbar Sher Babar, who had fallen out with Khan and petitioned the EC in 2014, said his arguments had been accepted and asked the former PM to step down from the party. Babar said he would continue to pursue the case till its logical conclusion. “Foreign Funding Case PTI Guilty as Accused,” he said in a tweet.
Elected as the country’s PM in 2018, Khan was ousted from office through a no-confidence vote in parliament last April. He says he was removed in a US-sponsored conspiracy, and has been rallying his supporters for fresh elections, which are due in 2023.