ISLAMABAD - Only two days after the Election Commission declared that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) received prohibited funding from abroad, former prime minister Imran Khan on Thursday lashed out at the electoral body for its verdict and said that taking money from foreign companies was legal under Pakistani law when his party received such funding.
Addressing his supporters here at a park in central Islamabad through a video link, Chairman PTI Khan said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) must know that collecting funds from overseas Pakistanis was not foreign funding at all. He explained that such funding could be declared as “prohibited or foreign” which are received from multinational companies and those foreign courtiers that can influence the policy of the country.
Following his past practice, he censured the Commission for its “biased” verdict in party’s prohibited funding case and said that taking money from foreign companies wasn’t illegal in 2012 as the law which prohibited taking funds from foreign companies was introduced in 2017.
“The PTI collected money from foreign companies in 2012 …so my party did not violate any law and the ECP can’t differentiate between foreign funding and fundraising from overseas Pakistanis,” he added.
Before this, Khan had given a call to his supporters to rally outside the ECP office on Thursday to protest against the “partial and biased” attitude of the Commission, especially of the CEC. Later, the venue was changed to F-9 Park after the government did not allow the protest in the Red Zone where the office of the Commission is located.
Khan claimed that PTI was the only party that raised money through political fundraising, unlike other parties including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (ML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which were run by “mafias”. He said that collecting funds by political parties through hosting dinners was a common practice all over the world. He continued that the parties who are making a hue and cry over funding given to the PTI were aware that no one would give them a single penny as the world knew about their track record.
“And this is the reason why I kept demanding that all the parties should be investigated together,” he said. This is because the nation should know from where other political parties raised money, he added. “But the irony is that a biased CEC is only targeting the PTI.”
The PTI chief said that ECP was of the view that money raised by overseas Pakistanis was wrong and declared it foreign funding. He asked if this is foreign funding, then what about the remittances and the money which is sent by overseas Pakistanis for earthquakes and floods.
Talking about the story published in the Financial Times, Khan claimed that his party had received money from business tycoon Arif Naqvi in 2012 from two fundraising dinners that the latter had arranged. He underlined that the business and founder of Dubai-based Abraaj Group was charged with fraud six years later in 2018. “How could I have known about that in 2012?”
He said that there was nothing wrong with the PTI receiving money from a foreign company of Naqvi in 2012 since it was legal at the time.
He said that his opponents only wanted to crush him after seeing him popular and they have brought flimsy charges of foreign funding against him.
Talking about the widespread allegations of rigging that are common after every election, former prime minister Khan said that some “hidden powers” wanted to rig the elections in the country through controlling the ECP. “But the people of the country will not let this plan succeed.” He added that these powers wanted to control the country by manipulating elections.
He said that PTI had demanded a show of hand voting method in the Senate election but the Election Commission did not hear his call. He alleged that the electorate body remained indifferent to widespread rigging, vote buying and horse-trading during several by-polls and the Senate election. He said that the “imported government” was making futile efforts to steal people’s mandate through a biased ECP.
Khan said that the present ECP was also a major impediment in achieving real freedom in Pakistan through a strong democracy. He also criticized the CEC for holding a meeting with a delegation of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in which leaders of the ruling alliance had requested him to announce the verdict in the PTI prohibited funding case at the earliest.
Earlier in the day, PTI lawmakers marched towards the office of ECP despite the local administration had erected barbed wires and barricades in the area to disallow entry of workers of the party in the Red Zone. They held a protest outside the office of ECP by holding placards and raising slogans like “biased chief election commissioner unacceptable.” The lawmakers demanded resignation of CEC and submitted a memorandum with the Commission against Raja for playing an “undemocratic and biased” role.
The memorandum said that ECP under the leadership of CEC Raja has adopted a biased attitude against the PTI for the past eight years, which is evident from its decisions. It demanded that all the existing officials of the ECP submit their resignations immediately