Thursday Jan 21, 2021
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan cannot hold open proceedings in the foreign funding case, a spokesperson said on Thursday.
According to the spokesperson, the scrutiny committee’s powers are similar to that of a joint investigation team, which is why the hearings cannot be held publicly.
“A public hearing will also make it difficult for the committee to work,” he said.
The spokesperson said that it was an “important and sensitive” case for which the verdict will be done based on "merit" and "national interest".
“Unnecessary and unsubstantiated comments on the case should be avoided,” he said.
According to the spokesperson, the case is already being heard in the ECP with the petitioners, media and other people from related agencies taking part in the hearings.
He added that a scrutiny committee hears the points of view of both the party accused and the complainant.
The official stated that after reviewing the positions, the committee will forward its “comprehensive recommendations” to the ECP. The ECP will then put forward these recommendations to both the parties in an open hearing, he said.
"The ECP will hear the arguments of both sides and decide the case on merit,” said the spokesperson, adding that the body will decide the case without any "fear or pressure".
The statement by the ECP comes a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan challenged all those sceptical of his party's activities by saying that the proceedings of the foreign funding case should be aired live on TV.
Speaking to journalists in South Waziristan, the prime minister said the proceedings should be open and that the party heads should attend the hearings.
Accepting PM Imran Khan's challenge on Thursday, PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique said that a person who was "hiding behind a stay order" for the last six years is now talking about live coverage of the proceedings.
Rafique said that PM Imran Khan, who had been "tricking the institutions through lawyers for years", was now making cases against PML-N and PPP.
Moreover, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said that 24 hours have passed, and the prime minister has yet to apply for the foreign funding case's record to be made public.
Akbar S Babar, a founding member of the PTI, had filed a case against the Imran Khan-led party in November 2014 claiming in his petition that there were massive financial irregularities in handling of foreign funding to the tune of nearly $3 million.
Following the petition, the PTI challenged the ECP orders in the IHC in 2017.
In the same year, the IHC sent back the case to the electoral body to review its jurisdiction once again. In the case, the high court had also declared Babar as member of the ruling PTI.
Later on May 8, 2017, an ECP bench stated that the body had complete jurisdiction over the case.
In March 2018, a scrutiny committee was formed to look into PTI's foreign funding accounts to determine if there was any wrongdoing.
The PTI at multiple times has sought secrecy in the scrutiny and had also approached the ECP, in this regard. However, in October, 2019, the ECP turned down the party's request.
PTI chief Imran Khan at multiple times has accused the ECP for working for the interests of the Opposition in the case.