The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued its long-awaited decision in the cliffhanger case of the PTI’s forbidden fundraising on Tuesday, concluding that the party did indeed accept illegal donations and issuing a notice to the party asking why the cash should not be confiscated.
The judgement was made by a three-person ECP panel chaired by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja in a case brought by PTI founding member Akbar S Babar and pending since November 14, 2014.
The unanimous decision, which was reserved on June 21, was scheduled at 10 a.m. but was delayed by about 30 minutes.
The ECP stated in its written ruling that the political party received millions of dollars in unlawful contributions from foreign countries such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
“The office is also required to initiate any additional legal action in light of the Commission’s ruling,” said the 68-page decision, a copy of which is available to The Express Tribune.
The electoral watchdog also determined that 13 ‘unknown’ accounts were linked to the party, and that PTI head Imran Khan’s filings were ‘inaccurate and erroneous.’
It is worth noting that the eight-year delay has impacted the PTI at a time when Imran Khan has expressed worries about the main election monitoring body’s conduct.
However, in the aftermath of the verdict, the party has downplayed the possible impact on its political prospects, claiming that its accounts were in order and that the ruling confirmed its own position that the party was not “foreign-funded.”
Nonetheless, the ruling has come as a shot in the arm for the ailing coalition government, which, still reeling from a devastating setback in Punjab at the hands of the party they muscled out of office just months ago, is determined to exhaust all legal possibilities to remove Imran.
The ECP also stated in its order that it was forced to hold that Mr Khan failed to discharge his obligations as mandated by the relevant statutes, adding that the PTI chairman has submitted Form-1 and signed a certificate which is not consistent with the accounting information before the commission, which has been gathered and complied on the basis of information obtained from banks through the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
“For the five years under review, Mr Imran Khan filed submissions that were grossly inaccurate and incorrect.” Even during the Commission’s Scrutiny and Hearing, PTI continued to hide and withhold complete and full disclosure of [its] source of finances.”
Imran had personally supplied certificates to the ECP stating that the PTI “does not accept funding from forbidden sources,” implying that the PTI is not a foreign-aided political party under Article 13(2) of the PPO.
According to the commission’s findings, the party “knowingly and deliberately” accepted financing from Wootton Cricket Limited, which was run by now-incarcerated entrepreneur Arif Naqvi.
According to the order, the PTI was a “willing recipient” of $2,121,500.
The UAE-based Bristol Engineering Services, Cayman Island-registered E-Planet Trustees, Australia-based Dunpec Limited, and the UK-based SS Marketing Manchester are among the other foreign-based firms who gave to the party.
In its ruling, the electoral commission also declared that the PTI violated Article 17(3) (3) of the Constitution by failing to report three bank accounts controlled by the party’s top leadership, and that the concealing of 16 bank accounts by the party was a “severe error.”
Following the release of the judgement, the petitioner in the case, PTI founding member Akbar S Babar, went to the media and praised God and his late mother for “winning” in “this war.”
“We were up against a mountain. This was a war of truth vs might, and we won.”
Babar argued that there was no personal profit for him in this case, but rather that the nation benefited since Pakistani politics need a critical reform so that political parties could be evaluated under the law.
He expressed gratitude to the ECP, stressing that we [the people] needed to trust and build state institutions.
“We have been put to the test several times over the last eight years, yet this very same electoral commission has agreed with all of my reasons.”
Reiterating the ECP’s ruling, Babar asserted that the PTI got funds from foreign persons and corporations and that the certifications given by Imran were “false.”
“Imran Khan used to threaten the PTI, disrespect the president of the electoral commission, and personally assault individuals,” he alleged, adding that he thought this was “fascist.”
He said that the ECP’s ruling was a step toward eradicating the PTI’s “fascist.”