With a temporary lull in the Panama papers case proceedings, attention has shifted back to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) hearings into Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) funding. After being accused of receiving funds from unauthorised sources, PTI has called for a scrutiny of accounts and funds of all political parties, particularly religious parties. With the ECP dangling the provisions of Political Parties Order 2002 above the party’s head like a sword, perhaps pulling some others onto the execution block might not be a bad idea.

The Political Parties Order 2002 – promulgated by a dictator looking to consolidate control over political opposition – is a problematic piece of legislation which should have been reviewed once democracy was restored. Its other demerits aside, the crucial aspect here is that a “foreign-aided political party” is defined so openly that it covers everything from parties formed and staffed by foreign nationals to domestic parties receiving campaign contributions from citizens abroad.

While we can be reasonably certain that the PTI is not a foreign party in the sense it was envisioned by the law – a party working to promote the interests of foreign power – we can also be certain that it does fall afoul of the provisions of the Political Parties Order 2002 on a plain reading of the statute. The party has received millions in campaign contributions from outside Pakistan – mostly from Pakistani expatriates and the diaspora in the west.

For its part, PTI has remained above the board; it claims that it had declared these contributions before the election and has provided documentation to the ECP attesting their revenue. Certainly there is nothing wrong in receiving funds from a diaspora that is allowed to vote and be part of the political process. However the facts remains, if the ECP chose to do so, they could interpret the law literally and strictly, finding PTI at fault and confiscate the funds at the least and suggest disqualification to the federal government.

This is why offence is the best defence in this case; if PTI falls afoul of the Political Parties Order 2002, then so do a host of political parties in Pakistan. Every political party has received funds from the foreign diaspora and most have received it from other sources too. Religious parties will be concerned the most if they are put under scrutiny. Most have received funds from different Middle Eastern states and international seminary complexes – they don’t hide that fact either.

Increased accountability is always welcome; however it must be applied uniformly. The ECP must remember that if it sanctions the PTI, it must apply the same standard to all other political parties – and on a plain reading of the facts, we can reasonably assume that they will fall short too.