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ECP Rules Out Public Hearing in Foreign Funding Case Scrutiny

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Spokesman says scrutiny committee has powers of Joint Investigation Team, and would face difficulties in case of open trial

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday dismissed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call for an “open trial” in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s foreign funding case, with a spokesman saying the powers of the scrutiny committee probing the case were similar to that of a Joint Investigation Team.

“The committee will face difficulties in proceeding with the case if it [open trial] happens,” read the statement issued by ECP public relations director Altaf Ahmad. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had proposed public hearings in the foreign funding case, adding it should be nationally televised. “Foreign funding case proceedings should be aired live on TV so that everything is known to the general public,” he had told journalists in South Waziristan.

The ECP stressed that the ongoing case was already being heard with the petitioners, media and concerned authorities participating in the hearings. The spokesman said the scrutiny committee would hear the points of view of both the accused and the complainant, adding that it would forward its recommendations to the ECP after carefully reviewing their respective positions. “The ECP will then place these recommendations to both parties in an open hearing,” read the statement.

The spokesman emphasized that the ECP would hear arguments of both sides and decide the case purely on merit without any “fear or pressure.” He said the foreign funding case was an “important and sensitive” matter, and no less than a merit-based decision would best serve the national interest.

“Unnecessary and unsubstantiated comments on the case should be avoided,” he added.

Foreign funding case

Akbar S. Babar, a founding member of the PTI, had filed a case against the party in November 2014, claiming that there were massive financial irregularities. Following the petition, the PTI challenged the ECP orders in the IHC in 2017.

On May 8, 2017, an ECP bench stated that the body had complete jurisdiction over the case. In March 2018, a scrutiny committee was formed to look into PTI’s accounts to determine if there was any wrongdoing.

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