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PML-N lawyer casts doubts

ISLAMABAD: A senior counsel representing a PML-N petitioner on Monday stirred up a hornets` nest when he claimed that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had received $3.5 million from February 2010 to date from 178 multinational corporations (MNC) and ghost donors. He further claimed that a number of such organisations were Indian.

`I have conducted an analysis from the documents submitted by the PTI, which revealed that 178 MNCs and ghost donors, with many as Indian probable, have contributed $3.5m from 2010 to 2017, which comes under prohibited sources of funds,` claimed senior counsel Muhammad Akram Sheikh before a threejudge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief JusticeMian Saqib Nisar.

`What interest they have in funding the PTI?` the lawyer asked. He was representing PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, who has sought disqualification of the opposition party`s chief Imran Khan and secretary general Jahangir Khan Tareen over allegations of non-disclosure of assets, owning offshore companies and belonging to a foreign-aided party.

Senior counsel Anwar Mansoor, who is defending the PTI, will submit an explanation, probably on Wednesday. He is also likely to clarify whether it was disclosed to the chartered accountant who audited the annual accounts of the party for submitting the report to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that the funds remitted to Pakistan had not been collected from prohibited sources.

Everyyearthecharteredaccountanthastoprepare his audit report to be certined by the party chief before its submission to the ECP.

Mr Mansoor argued that the ECP had an opportunity to look into the audited accounts of every party each year. But the accounts could not be reopened suddenly after a decade or so, he said, adding that there must be some time limit.

ECP jurisdiction Mr Sheikh will apprise the court on Wednesday of his client`s response in case the matter is referred to the ECP to investigate the allegations about receiving funds from prohibited sources and keep the issue pending till the commission reports its findings.

The counsel pleaded before the court not to keep its eyes closed by not 1001
Advocate Ibrahim Satti told the court on behalf of the ECP that none of the political parties had ever disclosed foreign funding before the commission despite the fact that it was mandatory to reveal such information. Such concealment came under fraud and, if proved, would lead to a bar from con-testing elections since the ECP would not issue an election symbol in such cases, he said.

Referring to the question that should a party head be disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution from holding a public office for making a false certification before the ECP about prohibited funding, Mr Satti said many cases of a similar nature were pending before the commission.

Some of the cases had been adjourned sine die, he said, adding that any remarks touching the merit of the cases would amount to expression of opinion in pending cases.

The counsel argued that only the ECP had the jurisdiction to probe or inquire into the issue of foreign and prohibited funding or aid.

Mr Satti said the ECP had never given any additional power except to confiscate the foreign aid or prohibited fund since under Article 15 of the Political Parties Order 2002 only the federal government had the authority to refer such a matter before the apex court through a reference against a party.

At the same time, he said, it was important to realise that the lawcatered only to a situation when the party declared in its yearly statement that it had received foreign funding.

But when the party intentionally withheld and suppressed such information, consequences were altogether different, the lawyer said.

Mr Satti said the ECP was fully empowered to exercise its jurisdiction when it was revealed that any fraud had been committed or suppression or concealment of facts made.

About the pending application of PTI dissident Akbar Sher Babar, who had accused the PTI of receiving foreign donations, the counsel highlighted, a May 8 Islamabad High Court judgement had held the ECP was empowered to take cognisance on a suo motu basis or an application by any person.

Similarly, the concept of past and closed transaction could never be accepted or applied in cases of fraud, mala fide actions, dishonest statement and suppression and concealment of facts, Mr Satti said. Whenever such allegations surfaced through any source, the ECP was legally bound to reopen the matter and to proceed in accordance with the law, he said.