ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has returned the petitions filed by a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader seeking detailed scrutiny of funding records submitted by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), observing that the petitions had been filed under a law that no longer exists.

In two letters sent to PTI leader Farrukh Habib, the ECP pointed out that the applications had been filed under the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002 and the Political Parties Rules (PPR) 2002. However, since those laws were repealed in the Elections Act 2017, the ECP could not take action under them.

“The commission has decided that the petition may be returned with directions to re-submit the same in accordance with the provisions of Elections Act 2017, and the Election Rules 2017,” the identical letters read.

Advocate Faisal Chaudhry, who had moved the petitions on behalf of Mr Habib, said there was no bar on the ECP to take cognisance of the matter raised in the petitions. “Both parties have submitted their accounts under the Political Parties Order 2002, hence as per the law, action could only be taken under the PPO because the complaint is with regard to the period between 2013 and 2015 when the PPO was in force,” he remarked.

Petitions filed under law that no longer exists

He was of the view that the present law could be used to initiate proceedings against both parties, but punitive action would have to be enforced under the previous law.

He said the decision would also raise questions pertaining to the audit of the PTI’s funding records.

“If the PTI is reluctant to initiate proceedings against the other parties under the same law, it may also ask for same treatment, or at least it will give impression of selective justice,” he noted.

In two separate ‘complaints’ filed with the ECP, Mr Habib, a central leader of the PTI, had accused the PML-N and the PPP of concealing their sources of funds and companies registered by them in the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively, and sought cancellation of election symbols allocated to them “for their failure to meet legal requirements for eligibility to obtain the symbols”.

According to the complaint against the PML-N, the party had relied on non-quality control review-rated firms for audits, and had adopted an incorrect reporting format. In all divisions, no sources of funds were declared, the accounts were contradictory, did not comply with the mandatory requirements of the PPO or the PPR, and violated Article 6 and 13 of the PPO read with Rules 4 and 6 of the PPR.

“The respondent political party may be generating money from prohibited sources but since they have consciously failed to provide any information, it is clear that the respondent political party is attempting to conceal where the money is being generated from,” the complaint read.

It said that the PML-N had received funds under the category “other revenue” which failed to disclose what the sources of revenue were or explain how such exorbitant funds could be raised under the category of ‘other revenue’. “This revenue could be coming from a foreign company or foreign government or from a multinational, but no disclosure is being made clearly in order to conceal this information so that nobody can question the person or organisation which is sending these funds,” said the petition. It alleged that the PML-N operated a private limited company in the UK, which had not been disclosed in the documents submitted to the ECP.

According to the complaint filed against the PPP, the party’s account statements between 2009 and 2012 were not available either due to non-filing or for reasons best known to the party. The accounts of 2013 began with an opening balance of Rs41.47m from previous years, however, where that opening balance was generated from was not disclosed. “Therefore,” the complaint said, “no source of opening funds in the accounts of the year 2013 has been disclosed, thus it was upon this August Commission to have asked for it under Rule 10 of the PPR, which was not done and were therefore not looked into.”

The complaint said the PPP had a company, the PPP LLC, registered under US laws to collect funds for the party. As per details of the company, the funds had been collected from foreign nationals and the government of Pakistan in large amounts. “This is against the spirit of the PPO as contributions from foreigners or the Government of Pakistan, are prohibited under the PPO. Furthermore, the PPP has failed to disclose the existence of this LLC established in USA.”

 

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2017

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