ISLAMABAD - The apparent ambiguity in an electoral provision seems to have created confusion over the status of ‘foreign-aided’ political parties operating in Pakistan.

While an electoral expert believes that the political parties that get funding from any country, foreign group or even from overseas Pakistanis are not allowed to operate in Pakistan, a politician argues that the funding to political parties from Pakistanis abroad cannot be categorised as ‘foreign-aided.’

Section 15 of the Political Parties Order 2002 provides for the dissolution of foreign-aided political parties. It states, “Dissolution of a political party. (1) Where the Federal Government is satisfied that a political party is a foreign-aided party or has been formed or is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan or is indulging in terrorism, it shall make such declaration by a notification in the official Gazette- The Federal Government shall refer the matter to the Supreme Court whose decision on such reference shall be final.”

Talking to TheNation, former Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan Kanwar Dilshad said that the term ‘foreign-aided’ in the said section also referred to the funding received by the political parties from overseas Pakistanis. “No political party is allowed to operate in Pakistan on foreign financial assistance or even to receive funds from Pakistanis settled there in the form of charity or donations,” he said adding that the State Bank of Pakistan had prescribed a strict criterion for political parties regarding funding from overseas Pakistanis.

Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim said that he would ‘look into’ the matter. “I would look into it. The issue would be dealt with, in the light of due provisions of the election rules and the Constitution of Pakistan,” he added.

The political parties, Kanwar Dilshad said, are not allowed to invest in any business or enterprise outside Pakistan. “This is money laundering. No political party is allowed to invest outside Pakistan on any pretext,” he said adding that such cases required action in the light of Section 406 of Pakistan Penal Code and Anti Laundering Act 2010.

Several political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan Awami Tehreek claim having large vote-banks of overseas Pakistanis who actively fund these parties.

Dilshad said, he had written a letter to the PTI, informing the party about what he described as electoral violations on its part by accepting ‘donations’ from Pakistanis abroad. “Earlier this year, I communicated to them (PTI) in writing about the violation of election laws they were committing by receiving donations from overseas Pakistanis. I’m yet to get a reply.” The PTI Chief Election Commissioner Hamid Khan Advocate argued that the funding to PTI and other political parties was not an electoral or constitutional violation. The term ‘foreign-aided’ in the Section 15 of Political Parties Order 2002 deals with the political parties serving the agenda of any foreign country or group or anti-state elements, he said.

“It is evident from the said section that it bans those elements that are operating in a manner prejudicial to the ideology or integrity of Pakistan. This has nothing to do with the funding from Pakistanis living abroad. The overseas Pakistanis are patriot people who are integral part of this country. They contribute vitally to Pakistan’s economy and have the right to vote and the right to send money in their country. What’s wrong with that?” he asked.  Khan expressed ignorance regarding Kanwar Dilshad’s letter to PTI. “We did not do any violation of rules or constitution. The PTI operates in compliance with the provisions provided in the election rules as well as the Constitution of Pakistan,” he said.

The Section 16 of the Political Parties Order 2002 provides for the disqualification of parliamentarians from any party disqualified under Section 15 of the said order. “Effects of dissolution of political party - (1) Where a political party is dissolved under Article 15, any member of such political party, if he is a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or a Provincial Assembly, shall be disqualified for the remaining term to be a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or, as the case may be, the Provincial Assembly, unless before the final decision of the Supreme Court, he resigns from the membership of the party and publicly announces his disassociation with such political party.

(2) A person becoming disqualified from being a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or Provincial Assembly under clause shall not participate in election for any elective office or any legislative body till the expiry of four years from the date of his disqualification from being a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or, as the case may be, the Provincial Assembly,” it reads.