An uncomfortable relationship

An uncomfortable relationship

Synopsis

ECP’s recent decisions have dealt some blows to the ruling PTI in recent past

An uncomfortable relationship
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The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) – the polls supervisory authority – has recently taken a number of decision that have directly affected the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

On January 4, the ECP unveiled the report of its scrutiny committee which put the PTI in a tight spot. The report, to the PTI’s dismay, highlighted the transfer of money by foreign companies and nationals to the PTI’s bank accounts. The ECP made the report public after years long hearing.

The scrutiny committee was formed to identify prohibited funding in the light of the allegations levelled in a complaint filed by Akbar S Babar, a disgruntled member of the PTI.

The committee was established in terms of Article 6 of the Political Parties Order 2020 read with Rule 6 of Political Parties Rules, 2002 and in view of the directions contained in the judgment, dated December 15, 2017 in the Muhammad Hanif Abbasi versus Imran Khan Niazi case.

The opposition claimed that the report had exposed the PTI’s “ugly face”.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan, however, played it down by claiming “The more accounts are scrutinized, the more factual clarity will emerge for the nation to see how the PTI is the only political party with a proper donor base premised on proper political fundraising.”

The wounds from the report were still fresh when the ECP on February 2 disqualified Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) Minister for Transport Shah Muhammad Khan for five years for inciting violence during the first phase of the local government (LG) election in Baka Khel tehsil of Bannu district.

The poll body’s two-member bench also disqualified Khan’s son, Mamoon Rasheed, who was contesting in the LG elections from Baka Khel tehsil after investigations revealed that the two were involved in attacking a polling station, snatching polling material, and abducting the polling staff.

However, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on February 10 suspended the ECP decision to disqualify Shah Muhammad Khan and temporarily restored his portfolio.

On February 7, the ECP also disqualified Umar Amin Gandapur, brother of Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur, from contesting the second phase of LG polls over repeated violations of the election code of conduct despite warnings.

A three-member ECP bench, presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, delivered the verdict, which barred Umar from running for the mayoral slot for Dera Ismail Khan in the upcoming second phase of the LG polls in the KP.

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The ECP also imposed a penalty of Rs50,000 on Ali Amin.

The PTI leader later moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the ECP order and the court gave relief to the Umar Amin by staying the ECP’s order.

However, some analyst postulate that despite an aggressive campaign run by the PTI leaders, the chances of the party’s success in  the next phase of the poll are bleak.

On February 9, the ECP also disqualified PTI Senator Faisal Vawda as a lawmaker over concealing his dual nationality at the time of contesting the National Assembly election on a Karachi seat in the 2018.

It directed Vawda to return the salary and other benefits he received as a minister and parliamentarian. It also withdrew the notification declaring Vawda’s victory on a Senate seat in polls held last year.

Vawda also moved the IHC against the order but the court on February 16 dismissed his plea. The former water and power minister has now approached the Supreme Court against his lifetime disqualification and the IHC order.

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The Gandapur saga

In the wake of the PTI’s defeat in the first phase of the LG election in the KP, Prime Minister Imran Khan – who is also the PTI chairman – dissolved the provincial organization of the party on December 25 and decided to form a new constitutional committee to devise a strategy for the second phase of the polls.

A meeting attended by the PTI senior leaders and chaired by Imran also attributed the defeat to distribution of party ticket based on nepotism and in violation of the principles of fairness and merit.

The premier also announced that he would himself decide about awarding party tickets to the candidates in the next phase of the LG polls.

In the wake of this announcement, PTI political leader jumped into the arena to actively campaign for their blue eyed boys in order to secure party tickets for them ahead of the next phase of the poll.

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According to some party sources, one such PTI leader was Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur. Gandapur hails from Dera Ismail Khan from where he was elected to the National Assembly in July 2018 election.

The federal minister not only prevailed on Prime Minister Imran Khan to give the party ticket for the slot of Dera Ismail Khan’s tehsil mayor to his younger brother Umar Amin Gandapur but also ran his brother’s election campaign.

According to the rules and regulations of the ECP, no minister can visit a constituency during electioneering. Taking notice of his visits, the polls supervisory body issued many warnings to Ali Amin Gandapur but he continuously disregarded them.

Later the ECP disqualified Umar Amin while also imposing a penalty of Rs50,000 on Ali Amin.

 

The foreign funding case

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The ECP scrutiny committee report – a copy of which is available with the Bol News – talked about 53 bank accounts which the PTI had not disclosed to the ECP. It said an amount of US $2.2 million and Rs1.9 million were remitted to the bank accounts maintained by the PTI with the UBL.

This amount was remitted by two limited liability companies and two individuals who by naming protocol appeared to be of Pakistani origin. Wotton Cricket Limited (Dubai) remitted US$2.1 million while Bristol Engineering Services FZ LLC Dubai remitted US$49,965 to the PTI accounts.

According to the scrutiny committee report, this information is based on the bank statements provided by the UBL to the ECP on the direction of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

It also highlighted that the bank did not provide any further details or information and therefore the committee was unable to make further observations on the source of funds.

The committee said an amount of US $34,605 and Sterling Pound 95,126 was remitted to the PTI accounts maintained by Westwood Gardens Barnes London (US$24,605); Faisal Khan Mian, London (US$10,000): the PTI UK, Staffordshire (UK Pound 92,875) and other contributors (UK Pound 3,992).

According to the report, the committee was not provided any further details or information; therefore it was unable to make further observations on the source of the funds.

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An amount of Euro 33,426, US$100,000 and Pakistan Rs1,816,393 were remitted to PTI accounts maintained with the UBL. Karim Saadat – of the PTI Finland –remitted Euro27,260; E Planted Trustees PTC, Zurich remitted US$100,000.

According to the report, it was evident that the chartered accountant of the PTI during the scope of the period did not reconcile the PTI’s accounts with the bank statements and yet gave a fairly kept account certificate as per their audit certificate/opinions which were submitted by the PTI to the ECP.

The report said it was evident that from 2009-2010 to 2012-2013, the PTI under-reported an amount of Rs310,440,444. An amount of US $25,174 and Rs434,000 were remitted to the PTI bank accounts in BankIslami/KASB (defunct) and the UBL for US dollars and the HBL for Pakistan rupees.

The committee was again not provided further details or information and it was unable to make further observations on the sources of funds.

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