ISLAMABAD – The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will resume the hearing of a petition on Thursday (today) seeking the disqualification of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on charges of collecting party funds from “prohibited” sources.
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An ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza in May had turned down Mr Khan’s request to adjourn the hearing of petition indefinitely arguing that a similar petition had been taken up by the Supreme Court.
The petitioner, Hashim Ali Bhutta, had filed the plea in a personal capacity, but the PTI believes the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is bolstering Bhutta.
The petition was filed in the context that under the country’s laws, a political party cannot receive funds from foreign individuals or organisations. To keep an eye on the funding source, all party chiefs are required to submit a declaration to the ECP while submitting details of their party assets.
To substantiate his claims against PTI, Mr Bhutta had attached some documents that the party, currently at loggerheads with the ruling party had received around $3 million through various sources in American states, Texas and California.
Mr Bhutta’s counsel, Sharafat Chaudhry, had argued that Imran Khan had submitted a certificate of 2010 to 2015 stating that the PTI had not collected funds through any “prohibited means”, whereas his client had documents to negate the claims of cricketer-turned-politician.
Representing the PTI chief, Advocate Shahid Gondal informed the commission that a similar petition had been filed in the Supreme Court by former PML-N legislator Hanif Abbasi. He requested the ECP to adjourn the hearing indefinitely as the petitions were identical in nature.
However, PTI chief’s failure to submit a reply annoyed the ECP and Justice Raza said if the party had submitted its reply to the apex court it could do the same before the ECP. The CEC offered to consider the PTI lawyers’ request for a long adjournment only after receiving a response from the PTI chairman.
It bears mentioning that the ECP is set to announce the verdict against PTI supremo Imran Khan regarding another ‘contempt of court’ case.
The contempt proceedings against the PTI chief started after Khan accused the ECP of political bias in the case against the PTI’s ‘foreign funding’ initiated on the petition of disgruntled former party leader Akbar S Babar.