ISLAMABAD - The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is ‘perturbed’ over the foreign funding case being heard by the scrutiny committee of the Election Commission of Pakistan taking it as a matter of reputational damage for the party who seized power on the anti-corruption slogan.

However, the party claims that it has countered the move against it by taking the foreign funding cases of two opposition parties— the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — to the same forum where party’s case is being heard.

Background interviews with some key PTI leaders indicate that ruling party is disturbed since last week when the ECP decided to hear the five-year-old foreign funding case against it on daily basis from November 26. The ECP took the decision on an application of all the opposition parties’ Rehbar Committee asking it to decide the case before the expiry of the term of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Sardar Muhammad Raza on 6th December.

Ruling party taking it as a matter of reputational damage

“We are clear on it that the party is not facing dissolution in case of any adverse decision, but there is a deep feeling within the party that this is a matter of reputational damage for the PTI who has fought a long battle against the past rulers for their (alleged) involvement in corruption and money laundering,” a senior party leader said. He added that the party leadership was really ‘disturbed’ over the foreign funding case.

In March 2018, the ECP had constituted the three-member scrutiny committee under its director general for law and comprising members of office of the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenues to complete an audit of PTI’s funding sources.

In November 2014, Akbar S Babar, one of the founding and disgruntled members of PTI, had filed the case against PTI alleging that the party had received funding from foreign donors through some of its foreign accounts that were concealed from the annual audit reports submitted to the ECP. He had alleged that the party collected $3 million “illegal foreign” funds through two offshore companies and then illegal “hundi” channels were used to transfer the money from one place to another.

“It looks from the strategy of the ruling party, which it has adopted to defend the foreign funding case, that there is a panic within the party lines,” Zaigham Khan, a senior political analyst told The Nation, “the party is fearful because of two factors; the reputational damage that will be substantial and the legal implications of the case.”

Khan said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party had adopted three-fold strategy to defend its case and its attitude showed that it was disturbed because of these two factors. “First, the party is using delaying tactics to prolong the case while hiding behind technicalities; secondly, it is trying to ensure secrecy about the details of foreign funding and wants there should be no debate on it,” he said. The third, he said that PTI as a strategy had started questioning integrity of the chief election commissioner and asking for accountability of funding sources of other parties to “avoid the due process of law.”

The Core Committee of the ruling party that met on last weekend under the chair of PM had raised questions about impartiality of CEC while reiterating its demand that ECP should club the foreign funding cases of all three major political parties in the country — PTI, PML-N and PPP — and avoid from singling out it.