PTI's petition against ECP's notification in the prohibited funding case was rejected

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan speaks to media. PTI Twitter/File

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday dismissed a petition by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision on the banned funding case.

In August 2022, the Election Commission issued a notice to the PTI after concluding that the party had received funds from prohibited sources. The notification was later challenged at the IHC.

A larger bench of the IHC — comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, Justice Miangul Hassan and Justice Babar Sattar — reserved its verdict on January 11 after arguments were completed.

The verdict was announced orally.

PTI may lose its electoral symbol

Speaking to Geo News, former ECP secretary Kan war Dilshad termed the verdict as an "important development" that could have several ramifications for the party.

Dilshad said the PTI had approached the high court against the ECP's decision in the prohibited funding case under Sections 204 and 210 of the Elections Act, 2017, which allows the commission to seize funds.

Asked about the implications of the IHC verdict, Dilshad said the ECP can now seize the party's assets under the law.

The ECP can also take away the election symbol issued by the PTI.

Last hearing

During the hearing, the court observed that the ECP's responsibility was only to do what the constitution allowed - which was limited to confiscation of funds.

While the ECP argued during the hearing that it did not have the power to change its decision, the court noted that if PTI presented satisfactory evidence to the court - proving the legitimacy of the funds - the amount would not be seized.

PTI's counsel argued during this hearing that the ECP had declared it a "foreign aid" party and rejected PTI chief Imran Khan's statement as false.

"A chartered accountant takes care of the finances of political parties," he argued. “ECP has targeted PTI.

The Chief Justice said the ECP didn't make any statement in its report, “ ECP's decision is  occasionally called an order,  occasionally a report and  occasionally just an opinion In my opinion, it was an investigative report,” he said.

However, the ECP representative insisted that it was not just a report but a decision.

“The ECP could not issue a show cause notice without issuing a decision,” he said.

During the hearing of the case, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq said, "Are you afraid that Imran Khan will be disqualified in this matter? The ECP will not make any statement in this show cause notice nor will he take any criminal action against Khan." Its authority only extends to the extent of the confiscation of funds."

Besides, the court in the previous hearing also criticized the ECP for taking the matter to the federal government as it led to a number of cases being registered by the FIA ​​against the PTI.

Now, if the court rules in favor of PTI, the notification will be withdrawn and the cases against the party will be withdrawn. It is also likely that the court will recommend that the electoral body reconsider the matter.

PTI challenges the ECP's decision

On August 10 last year, PTI had challenged the ECP's decision in the IHC, seeking quashing of the order in the case of prohibited funding.

In his petition filed with the IHC, PTI Additional General Secretary Omar Ayub asked the court not only to set aside the August 2 decision but also to recall the ECP's notice sent to PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

The  supplicant said he was" grossly  displeased" by the inquiry report- which revealed that PTI  entered  finances from foreign sources and demanded that it be declared" perverted, wrong and in excess of authority and jurisdiction".

In his petition, Ayub also asked the court to "declare that any action proposed by the ECP is beyond its jurisdiction and no action can be taken on of the fact-finding report".

The PTI also made the ECP a party to the case.

ECP verdict in case of prohibited financing

On 2 August 2022, the ECP announced in a unanimous verdict that PTI had received prohibited funding. The case was earlier referred to as a 'foreign funding' case, but later the Election Commission accepted PTI's request to refer to it as a 'prohibited funding' case.

The commission found that donations were received from America, Australia, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

PTI received funds from 34 individuals and 351 businesses including companies, the ECP verdict said.

Thirteen unknown accounts also came to light, the commission said in the judgment, stating that hiding the accounts is a "violation" of Article 17 of the Constitution.

The funds were also in violation of Article 6 of the Act on Political Parties.

Besides, the ECP found that Khan had submitted a fake nomination form I and that the affidavit provided regarding the party accounts was also not genuine.

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