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Hanif Abbasi,Akram Sheikh could not prove foreign funding against PTI

03 August, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Senior counsel for PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, Akram Sheikh, on Wednesday remained unsuccessful to prove before the Supreme Court that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) received huge foreign funding from prohibited sources.

During the hearing of case against PTI, the court repeatedly asked Akram Sheikh whether any documents were available that could establish that the party received funds from prohibited sources.

A three-member SC bench comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Faisal Arab is seized with a petition filed by PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi seeking disqualification of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Secretary General Jahangir Tareen for non-disclosure of assets, ownership of offshore companies, and PTI being a foreign-aided party.

The chief justice noted that the jurisdiction of determining that the funds received by a political party were illegal rested with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). At the outset of the hearing, Akram Sheikh told the bench that the chief justice’s observations made on Tuesday warranted further clarification. “The nation should be made aware that funds were accepted by the PTI from multinational companies,” Sheikh said, adding that PTI had admitted to accepting prohibited funds.

“Prohibited funds can be confiscated; there are laws that allow such funds to be confiscated,” Sheikh argued.

Justice Umar Ata Bandiyal told Sheikh that he would have to prove that PTI had accepted prohibited funds. Sheikh claimed that foreign corporations sent $40,760 to PTI Pakistan. The CJ said that record did not prove this funding. He also pointed out the possibility that the corporations which funded PTI are owned by overseas Pakistanis.

Sheikh, however, said he cannot ‘bear the burden’ of obtaining the certificates of the corporations funding PTI. He urged the court to maintain its neutrality. The CJ assured him that the bench realised its responsibility and was only questioning him to establish a clear understanding of the case.

The counsel contended that PTI received funds exceeding one million dollars from PTI USA, which is against USA's Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). However, the CJ maintained that American law is not applicable in Pakistan.

The CJ recalled that Imran Khan had filed his declaration with the Election Commission of Pakistan that he had never received funds from the prohibited sources. Sheikh contended that Imran Khan had furnished a fake certificate before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that no donations from prohibited sources were received by the party, thus he deserved to be declared disqualified under Article 62 of the constitution. The CJ noted that Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002 did not envisage such a penalty for submitting a 'fake' certificate.

He observed that the apex court while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the constitution decides cases on the basis of admitted facts. He told the counsel that he would have to prove that the affidavit filed by the PTI chief with the ECP was fake.

Sheikh referred to the list of FARA wherein agents from abroad transferred funds to PTI Pakistan. He said a total of 1.186 million US dollars were transferred from PTI California, USA by March 31, 2017, while some 2.3 million dollars were collected from Texas during the year 2010-13. However, two million dollars were transferred to PTI Pakistan till date and PTI did not contradict this amount.

Sheikh pleaded that prohibited funds should be investigated as a whole and the court may order an inquiry in this regard. To a court query, Sheikh said that ECP has no power to disqualify Imran Khan for furnishing with it a false declaration.

The court asked Naeem Bukhari, counsel for Imran Khan, that he has not yet submitted documents and passport in order to determine about his status of being non-resident. Naeem Bukhari replied that he will soon provide so.

Sheikh also argued that the assets of Niazi Services Limited (NSL) were owned by Imran Khan. The court, however, noted that Imran Khan was the real owner of the company but not a title holder. Sheikh submitted that to establish money trail regarding funds needed to purchase the London apartment, Imran Khas has attached various documents purportedly issued by financial institutions and others along with his reply.

He said all these documents are photocopies and even not verified. He said internet search discloses that these financial institutions do not even exist at present. He said all record produced by Imran Khan is of dubious nature, adding that facts of the case clearly establish that Imran Khan had consistently made false and misleading statements in the declarations filed with the ECP in the nomination papers as well as the declarations made in the income tax and wealth tax records.

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