Now that the country has been grappling with the coronavirus pandemic for a few months, accountability proceedings against financials of political parties must resume according to procedure. Concluding cases of political corruption can have several challenges but the courts must not allow the pandemic to become a cudgel used by accused parties to further delay the accountability proceedings against them.

In this respect, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is relevant, as it is hearing several cases on financial controversies of all major political parties. The ECP has announced that it will recommence its hearings about parties, the first time it is doing so since March, when it imposed a break because of the pandemic.

The pandemic no doubt shook up the country and the break was inevitable, but now it is imperative that the ECP work around the virus situation and follow the political cases to conclusion. This is because some of the cases have been resting in the ECP for several years—with political parties using some excuse or the other to prolong them indefinitely without a verdict. The most urgent one is that of the petition filed by disgruntled Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) member Akbar S Babar, who alleged serious financial irregularities in PTI’s accounts, including illegal sources of funding, concealment of bank accounts in the country and abroad, money laundering, and using private bank accounts of PTI employees as a front to receive illegal donations from the Middle East. This case has been going on for five years, despite the petitioners’ attempts to see the case through and demand proof from the party.

Prolonging a case of financial funding of a party inadvertently increases the risk of harassment and abuse to the petitioner. The allegations of foreign funding and the various other allegations levied against political parties are serious and need prompt judgment for greater transparency in the political system. The ECP should set firm timelines for the conclusion of these cases and political parties need to get in line and see through these cases for their own sake and reputation.