PTI prohibited funding: Legal opinions, discussions galore

ISLAMABAD: With the ECP announced its verdict in prohibited funding case against PTI on Tuesday, Legal experts and political pundits started discussing its possible legal and political repercussions on PTI as political party and its chairman.

The coalition government has started mulling over three legal options against the PTI after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced its verdict in the prohibited funding case.

According to sources the coalition government received the ECP verdict regarding the PTI prohibited funding case which was sent to the interior and law ministries. The government started consultations for the enforcement of the decision came against the PTI.

They said that the federal ministers held consultations with the constitutional and legal experts besides mulling over three legal options including the filing of a reference to the Supreme Court (SC) under Article (3)17, declaring PTI a foreign funded political party and moving the top court for action on Imran Khan’s affidavit.

It was learnt that the government is expected to approach the top court on the basis of the election commission’s recent verdict. The government may also seek the constitution of a full bench by the Supreme Court (SC).

The ECP announced the much-awaited verdict in the PTI prohibited funding case.

The ECP, in its unanimous verdict, ruled that the party received funds from business tycoon Arif Naqvi and from 34 foreign nationals.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, comprising Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi announced the reserved verdict.

The ECP also said that former prime minister Imran Khan submitted misdeclaration in the PTI prohibited funding case. The electoral watchdog also decided to issue a show-cause notice to the PTI to explain why the commission should not seize the funds it received.

Meanwhile, Legal experts said that the ECP finally decided what should have been an open and shut case, after several years of delays caused by various interventions, both legal and political.

They say in the ECP verdict, there is the necessary corollary — because as per law, a party leader must promise that his books are in order every year, and because the PTI’s books are so clearly not in order, its leader has promised falsely.

They pointed out there is already no uniform standard, which the Khwaja Asif case proves. After the Islamabad High Court said it was bound to follow the Supreme Court’s precedence in the Nawaz Sharif case and disqualified Khwaja Asif for a procedural error of mis-declaration, the Supreme Court reversed track and applied a newer standard where immaterial errors were now not automatic disqualifiers.

A legal-political analyst said that Article 6 of the Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002, elaborates who can be a donor/contributor to a political party, what is prohibited funding, and what happens to prohibited funding. In short, no foreign national, government or agency can fund a political party in Pakistan. If prohibited funding is proven as per PPO Article 6(4), the said funds are to be confiscated by the state.

He, however, declared the ECP judgment against PTI is the weakest it could have been.

He said funds have been proven to have come from undisclosed and prohibited sources. Once proven, they should have been ordered to be confiscated by the state — which is not the case; rather another show cause notice has been issued to explain it further. This will be played up by the PTI’s social media team and pressure will increase for the Chief Election Commissioner to resign.

Legal experts said that linked to prohibited funding is Article 13 of the PPO that requires political parties to submit audited financial accounts every year, which are to be certified by the head of the political party.

In this case, that certification has also been adjudged as false. This goes against Article 62 of the Constitution for a member of parliament to be Sadiq and Ameen. Secondly, the firm that undertook the audit should also be penalised and placed under scrutiny.

The federal government has a ripe case in hand to file against the PTI on the following counts:

File a reference in the Supreme Court against Imran Khan under Article 62. It’s time for the Supreme Court to consciously review its earlier judgement of declaring Imran Khan Sadiq and Ameen.

Meanwhile, some legal were of the view that as regards the PTI, the ECP has confined the scope of its ruling to confiscation of funds under Article 6 of the PPO and Rule 6(3) of the PPR, which will require a subsequent hearing.

It has nowhere held that the PTI falls under the express prohibition of a ‘foreign-aided party’ — which would have been attracted if it had received such funds from a foreign government or political party.

They said when it comes to Imran Khan, the ECP has squarely taken issue with his filing inaccuracies in his certificate, declaring that the party was operating as per Pakistani statutes. It remains to be seen, however, whether this constitutes an intentional misdeclaration — the Supreme Court has laid down in its recent jurisprudence that it is the intention of the lawmaker that is considered, and not just the fact of omission, before warranting a declaration of dishonesty or otherwise.

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