ISLAMABAD - While hearing a petition of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in foreign funding case, the Islamabad High Court has remarked that political parties should be open and transparent and they should permit open scrutiny of their funding by encouraging the accountability process.

The remarks were given by the IHC judges when a division bench of IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb resumed hearing in an appeal filed by the PTI against the order of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the party’s foreign funding case.

During the hearing, IHC judge Justice Athar Minallah also remarked that it is not a prejudice to any political party if any citizen seeks scrutiny of its funds. He added that the affairs of all political parties should be clean and transparent and expressed his wonder that why the PTI was afraid of accountability if its affairs were transparent in connection with the foreign funding issue.

In this matter, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has prayed to the IHC to declare the proceedings initiated by the committee of ECP against him as void, unlawful, without lawful authority and against the Constitution. He cited the ECP and Akber S Baber, a disgruntled member of PTI, as respondents in the petition.

Anwar Mansoor Khan, the counsel for PTI chairman contended before the bench that the ECP is neither a court nor a tribunal, but a constitutional and supervisory body. He said the PTI is ready to go for a scrutiny but the ECP is only listening to one petitioner Babar and not permitting the PTI to say anything in the scrutiny process.

He maintained that PTI is aggrieved as the committee is not calling it at all and allegedly just doing scrutiny with Babar. He said the ECP cannot declare Babar a member of the party and that is why he was present before IHC. He added that information may be obtained but ‘harassment’ cannot be allowed.

At this juncture, Justice Athar remarked, “How it is harassment if a person points out something.” He added that the ECP being a regulator takes decision and political parties should be open to such applications.

Justice Athar also said, “I fail to understand why a political party is resisting. If he (Akbar) is declared not a member of a political party yet he is a citizen. It [scrutiny] should be encouraged. That’s accountability.” He added that PTI can always challenge committee’s report.

Later, the IHC bench issued notices to Babar and ECP and deferred hearing in this matter.

In his petition, PTI Chairman Imran Khan prayed to the court to declare the proceedings initiated by the committee against him “void, unlawful, without lawful authority and against the Constitution”.

The PTI chairman stated in the petition that the ECP through the March 12 order constituted a second committee, comprising three members that included two members of the first committee, who distanced themselves from the committee due to personal reasons, resulting in the first committee to dissolve.

He added that after dissolution of the first committee, a second committee was constituted “but the terms of reference of the committee are violative of the observation of the Supreme Court as well as order passed by the IHC”.

Khan said that the committee constituted by the ECP did not bother to read the orders passed by superior courts and shared all confidential documents with Akbar while Akbar made all the proceedings of the committee public via his social media accounts.

He contended while referring to the IHC’s order passed on September 7, 2017 that the court had ruled that “the Election Commission of Pakistan shall not share the details of the source of foreign funding of the PTI with any other individuals — including respondent No 2 [Akbar] till a final decision of this petition.”

Imran’s counsel maintained that Akbar’s participation in the proceedings of the committee “is sheer violation of the guideline of the Supreme Court”. He said that Akbar did not come with clean hand because he approached the ECP after his expulsion from the party and “[Akbar] is not free from malice, ill will and just aimed to harass the petitioner”.

He continued that the impugned order is based on mala fide intents and is not passed in a transparent manner. He added that Khan, in compliance of the IHC’s order, submitted all documents before the ECP.

Therefore, he prayed to the court to set aside the ECP’s March 12 order and declare the committee proceedings “void, unlawful and without lawful authority against the Constitution and law on the subject in the interest of justice”.