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Taking money from foreign companies was not illegal in 2012: Imran counters ECP

ISLAMABAD: PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan on Thursday hit back at the Election Commission of Pakistan’s verdict in the PTI prohibited funding case saying that taking money from foreign companies wasn’t illegal in 2012.

In an address to supporters via video link, he said that the law which prohibited taking funds from foreign companies was introduced in 2017,“ he said. “But our case is from 2012.”

His statement comes days after ECP declared PTI to be a “foreign-funded party”. It had ruled that PTI had “wilfully” and “knowingly” received prohibited funding — which include a number of foreign donors, Dawn and other media sources have reported.

In its order, the commission also said that it was “constrained to hold that Imran Khan failed to discharge his obligations as mandated under the Pakistani statutes”.

Responding to all the allegations against him and his party today, the PTI chief said that his party had received money in 2012 from two fundraising dinners that Arif Naqvi had organised.

ISLAMABAD: PTI chairman Imran Khan addresses supporters via video link on Thursday.

Referring to the Financial Times’ report, he clarified that the businessman was charged with fraud six years later in 2018 and questioned how he could have known about that in 2012.

Imran added that there was nothing wrong with the PTI receiving money from a foreign company of Naqvi in 2012 since it was still allowed at the time, adding that it only became illegal later in 2017.

Furthermore, he claimed that PTI was the only party that raised money through political fundraising, unlike other parties (PML-N and PPP) which he said were run by “mafias”.

“Across the world, political parties raise money by hosting dinners,” he said, explaining that the donations during those events were later given to the party. “Ask these two parties why don’t they do this. I will tell you […] because they know no one will give them money.

“And this is the reason why I kept demanding that all the parties should be investigated together. The nation should know how they raise money,” he said, alleging that ECP’s verdict proved that it couldn’t see PTI succeeding.

ISLAMABAD: The photo shows PTI lawmakers marching towards the ECP office in Islamabad.

“It is saying that that money raised by overseas Pakistanis is wrong. They are calling it foreign funding,” Imran stated. “Tell me, if this money is foreign funding, then what about the remittances and the money that is sent for earthquakes and floods?

“The ECP is almost saying that money sent by overseas Pakistanis will be regarded as foreign funding,” he said. He also refuted the claims that he had signed an affidavit, claiming that it was a certificate. Moreover, the PTI leader said that the ECP had played a “big role” in controlling elections in the country.

“The nation was turned into a slave through the commission. How? People come to vote and elect their candidates but ECP didn’t let that happen,” he alleged, adding that this was also why the electoral body had rejected the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

“I will tell you why they didn’t let this happen. They knew that the secret hands that controlled the results would no longer be able to do so,” Imran said. Unfortunately, he regretted, “those forces are still controlling the country”.

Scores of PTI supporters gathered at Islamabad’s F-9 park on Thursday evening to protest against the ECP Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on Imran’s call.

Decked in red and green scarves and bands, the crowd chanted slogans against the electoral body and demanded the resignation of all its officials.

PTI lawmakers protest outside ECP

Earlier today, PTI lawmakers made their way through barbed wires and barricades to reach outside the Election Commission of Pakistan’s office in Islamabad and registered their protest against the electoral body.

The protesters included PTI leaders Faisal Javed Khan, Fawad Chaudhry, Pervez Khattak, Asad Umar, Azam Swati, Shibli Faraz, and Kanwal Shauzab among others. They chanted “imported hukoomat namanzoor” slogans while marching towards the ECP office.

CEC Sikander Raja (inside)

The demonstrators were also carrying placards inscribed with demands of Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja’s resignation. Some of the banners read “Biased chief election commissioner unacceptable” and “ECP abettors of PML-N, PPP”.

They were, however, stopped at the headquarters’ gate by a contingent of police and Rangers personnel.

Separately, PTI lawmakers also gathered outside ECP offices in Karachi and Lahore.

PTI submits memorandum against CEC

After reaching the ECP office, PTI lawmakers submitted a memorandum against Raja for playing an “unconstitutional, undemocratic and biased” role as the CEC.

The document, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said that PTI was the largest political party in Pakistan according to the votes it had received in the general and by-elections.

Imran Khan

“Under the leadership of CEC Raja, the ECP has adopted a biased attitude against the PTI for the past eight years, which is evident from its decisions.”

It said that the ECP’s August 2 verdict in PTI’s prohibited funding case was against the law and aimed at taking “revenge” from the party. “From the investigation to its verdict, the case is surrounded by severe doubts,” the memorandum stated, adding that Imran Khan had also, on multiple occasions, expressed his reservations with the ECP and the CEC.

ECOP verdict

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in a unanimous verdict Tuesday ruled that the PTI received funds from prohibited sources. In its verdict, the ECP said that the party, in violation of the Constitution, had received funds from 34 foreigners. The party received funds from US, Australia and UAE.

The party accepted funds from a US business personality, it added.

The party accepted funds from a US business personality, it said, and added, “13 unidentified accounts also surfaced during the probe in the PTI funding case.”

The ECP said that the PTI had submitted a false affidavit about the party’s accounts. PTI Chairman Imran Khan had submitted a false F1 form to the ECP, it added.

A three-member bench, comprising Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and ECP members Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi announced the verdict.

“The Commission is satisfied that the contributions and donations have been received by the respondent party from prohibited sources,” the ruling stated.

The ECP inquiry has acquired ever greater importance in recent weeks as Khan, who lost office in April in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, pushes for a political comeback. The closely-watched case was filed by a former member of the PTI party, Akbar S. Babar, in 2014, who alleged that the political entity received foreign funds from individual or companies to support election campaigns, which is prohibited under Pakistani laws. 

In its 70-page verdict, the ECP listed all individuals and entities, including the disgraced business tycoon Arif Naqvi, who sent the prohibited funds, saying Khan’s party “knowingly and willfully received these donations.” 

“The commission is satisfied that the contributions and donations have been received by the respondent party through prohibited sources,” the polls regulator ruled. 

Reacting to the development, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Khan had violated the constitution of the country. 

“ECP verdict on PTI foreign funding case chargesheets Imran [Khan] Niazi for violating the constitution, submitting false affidavits & accepting foreign money,” he said in a Twitter post. “Proven yet again that he is a certified liar. Nation should ponder over the implications of his politics funded by foreigners.”