ISLAMABAD - Taking serious notice of remarks of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief’s counsel Shahid Gondal in the party’s foreign funding case, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Sardar Muhammad Raza on Thursday said “you have refrained from answering our questions for two and half years, and now you are even subverting us”.

When the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) bench headed by Sardar Raza resumed hearing on Hashim Ali Bhutta’s petition seeking disqualification of PTI chief Imran Khan on charges of collecting funds for the party from "prohibited" sources,  Khan’s legal counsel Shahid Gondal submitted his objections to the petition. The Bench, however, expressed dissatisfaction over the respondent’s reply.

 Although Bhutta has filed the plea in a personal capacity, the PTI believes he is being backed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Bhutta had attached documents to his petition which support his claims that the PTI had received around $3 million through various sources in Texas and California.

"The petitioner (Bhutta) is the son of former PML-N MNA Naseer Bhutta," Gondal told the CEC.

"He [Bhutta] has filed the petition on the request of PML-N," the PTI counsel said Gondal went on to insist that the petitioner and his family were ardent supporters of the ruling party: "Naseer Bhutta had issued statements in favour of the Sharif family during their Hudaibiya Paper Mills case in the high court.A direct request in the ECP against the disqualification of Imran Khan cannot be filed,” he argued.

"The election commission should hear our objections first before moving ahead," Gondal told the bench.

“You first need to decide whether or not you can even hold a hearing on this petition,” Gondal retorted.

Responding to his remarks, the CEC suggested that the defendant offers straightforward answers: "You are avoiding answering the real question by refusing to address this issue as well”.

Postponing the hearing till July 12, the CEC expressed his dismay, saying, "We thought we would postpone this hearing indefinitely today." Replying to the statement of CEC Raza, Gondal said, "You should express less anger at us."

In May, the ECP bench headed by the CEC had turned down Khan’s request to adjourn the petition indefinitely on the grounds that a similar petition had been taken up by the Supreme Court.

Under the country’s laws, a political party cannot receive funds from foreign individuals or organizations. All party chiefs are required to submit a declaration to the ECP in this regard while submitting details of their party assets.

Bhutta’s counsel, Sharafat Chaudhry, had argued that the PTI chief had submitted a certificate of 2010 to 2015 stating that the PTI had not collected funds through any “prohibited means”, whereas his client had evidence which proved otherwise.

Advocate Gondal had informed the commission that a similar petition had been filed in the Supreme Court by former PML-N MNA Hanif Abbasi. He had requested the ECP to adjourn the hearing indefinitely as the petitions were identical in nature.

Expressing annoyance over the PTI chief’s failure to submit the reply, Justice Raza said if the party had submitted its reply to the apex court it could do the same to the ECP. The CEC has offered to consider the PTI lawyers’ request for a long adjournment only after receiving a response from the PTI chief.