Islamabad: Former prime minister Imran Khan said funds obtained by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were not illegal, accusing the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and its chief of being biased against his party.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan made the comments in a video address to his supporters who had gathered at F-9 park in Islamabad and other major cities to protest against the election watchdog and the verdict in the prohibited funding case.
PTI supporters gathered at the F-9 park instead of the ECP office after the government beefed up security and placed shipping containers in the Red Zone, where embassies and government offices are located. Several key roads were also closed, which led to traffic jams in the city.
Imran termed the ECP decision an attempt by the ruling coalition and the authorities to oust him on “technical” grounds. Imran said his party funds were legal and collected way before the law prohibiting foreign nationals and companies from funding political parties was enforced in 2017.
“In 2012, it was legal to receive funds from foreign companies as per law. The [Election Act of 2017] law that prohibited funding from foreign companies was introduced in 2017,” he added. PTI leaders quote this point to prove that the party did not violate any law since the law didn’t exist back then.
Imran said the PTI was the first party in Pakistan to raise money through political fundraising in Pakistan. He also spoke about donations his party received from an overseas Pakistani businessman. In 2019, the businessman was charged with fraud. Imran clarified that his party received the money in 2012 in two fundraising dinners organised by the businessman, who was only charged in 2019, making it impossible for them to know about the fraud allegations back in 2012.
ECP verdict and prohibited funding case
The case against PTI, commonly called the “foreign funding” case, was eventually defined as a case of “prohibited funding” by the ECP in its August 2 verdict. ECP accused PTI of receiving funds from foreign individuals and firms, concealing bank accounts and receiving funds from 34 individuals and 351 companies based abroad. The commission issued a notice to the party to explain why the funds should not be confiscated and was directed to initiate any other action under the law.
The case was filed in 2014 by PTI dissident Akbar Babar, who alleged financial irregularities in the party’s funding. In 2018, ECP formed a scrutiny committee to examine the case, which presented its findings after four years. The final ECP report on August 2 said that PTI committed gross violations of Pakistani funding laws by receiving millions of dollars from foreign nationals and companies.
However, PTI claims that all funds were legal and received from Pakistani donors abroad. Imran Khan’s party has decided to file two petitions challenging the ECP verdict in court. “One petition for contempt of court [for violating injunctions] and the other for the legal ambiguities which have arisen from the ECP ruling”, PTI focal person on international media, Raoof Hasan, told Gulf News.