ISLAMABAD - The foreign funding case against the ruling PTI is being termed a test for the current Election Commission of Pakistan.

Former secretary ECP Kanwar Dilshad told The Nation that this is very important case and it is yet to be resolved by the commission. “It is also a kind of test case for ECP,” Dilshad observed.

He said that if the ECP did not announce the verdict of foreign funding case on merit and facts and figures then it would be a kind of question mark on the role of ECP in making the political system more transparent.

He said that the importance of the case can be observed from the PM’s move to raise the issue in the Islamabad High Court (IHC). While answering a question he said that the commission under the section 204 of the Election Act 2017 shall take action against the ruling party if the petitioner provided the data which he had claimed of in response to a question Kanwar Dilshad said that the ECP should maintain its impartial role and must announce the verdict without any further delay and tampering.

The petitioner of the foreign funding case and PTI founding member Akbar S Babar has repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the pace of the ECP scrutiny. Even the ECP in its order of October 10, 2019 had directed the Scrutiny Committee to complete scrutiny expeditiously.

As late as January 24, 2020 Mr. Babar filed an application with the ECP seeking directions to the Scrutiny Committee “to hear on a daily basis and complete scrutiny of PTI foreign funding within a limited and fixed timeframe.”

In the application Babar had accused the PTI of employing third degree methods like that of hurling threats and filing frivolous criminal cases against him to harass and restrain him from pursuing the foreign funding case. In this regard, on Tuesday (today) Babar was granted pre-arrest bail in a criminal defamation case filed on behalf of the PM Imran Khan and President Dr. Arif Alvi under Section 499 and 500 of the PPC filed by a PTI office bearer from Rawalpindi.

When contacted, Mr. Babar said the scrutiny of PTI foreign funding case that commenced in March 2018 continues without any end in sight. In his view, the committee has yet to commence serious fact-finding particularly with regard financial scrutiny of admitted PTI’s chapters abroad. He said this must be the longest scrutiny of any account in history. By failing to complete a simple fact finding task within a limited time frame only raises eyebrows. Babar maintained that one of the prime responsibilities of the ECP is to regulate political parties. Without holding political parties accountable for the sources of their funds; political parties would remain vulnerable to external control and/or manipulation. This has potential national security ramifications which seem to be missing with the lack of urgency in dealing with the matter.

It is important to mention that Prime Minister Imran Khan has challenged the Islamabad High Court (IHC) orders to recognise Akbar S. Babar a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and revert the foreign funding case to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The PM challenged the jurisdiction of the ECP to hear the case, stating that Babar was not a member of the PTI since 2011. The PTI chairman said that the IHC ignored the decisions of the apex court in its judgment where it reverted the case to the commission.

Babar, a founding member of the PTI, had filed a case against the Imran Khan-led party in November 2014, claiming that there were massive financial irregularities in handling of foreign funding to the tune of nearly $3 million.