On Wednesday, Chief Justice Aamer Farooq of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) stated that the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) ruling in the case of prohibited funding against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was an “observation” and that the ruling would need to be changed if the PTI could show that the funds were not unlawful.
A larger bench presided over by the IHC CJ heard the PTI’s appeal against the ECP’s determination that the PTI was a foreign-funded party in the prohibited funding case.
PTI’s attorney, Anwar Mansoor, testified in court on their behalf, claiming that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had started its investigation in response to the ECP’s ruling.
The commission’s decision was sometimes “called an order, sometimes a report, and sometimes an opinion,” the chief justice emphasized. He insisted that he saw it as an investigation report.
The ECP was not authorized to make such a declaration, according to the PTI attorney.
According to Justice Farooq, the electoral body had not made any declarations claiming that Imran Khan was dishonest or unreliable. He furthered that the commission had only made one conclusion.
To this, Mansoor stated that the ECP had in fact given its declaration and reiterated that it did not have the authority to do so.
He added that the ECP had used the word “hold,” and Justice Mian Gul Hasan Aurangzeb questioned how the commission could do that without also providing the PTI with a copy of its show-cause notice.
When Justice Farooq asked if the former ruling party was concerned about being disqualified by the ECP, the party’s attorney responded that the ECP had ruled PTI leader Imran Khan’s declaration of funding to be incorrect.
He continued by saying that the ECP lacked the authority to label PTI a “foreign-aided party” as it had done.
Justice Aurangzeb stated that the ECP should have come to a decision before issuing the show-cause notice, while CJ Farooq claimed that the ECP had not made any declarations in its report.
The attorney added that the PTI as a whole, rather than Imran Khan, was made a party to the case. He claimed that Imran Khan was not given a notice by the ECP.
The chief justice responded by stating that the Election Commission probably wouldn’t take as much action as the counsel anticipated.
Later, the ECP’s attorney claimed that since a show-cause notice was issued following the commission’s verdict, it could be considered a decision.
According to the court, the ECP demonstrated that, should the case be successful, it would forfeit the funds to the government. The ECP advocate retorted that the only feasible outcome for the funds was confiscation.
When the court asked the lawyer why the ECP had referred the case to the federal government, the lawyer responded that the commission was a regulator and had informed the government of the information they had found.
The ECP counsel responded to the court’s inquiry about the meaning of the decision’s final two open-ended sentences by stating that the commission had only provided that information to the federal government in relation to the Hanif Abbasi ruling.
He continued, “The cabinet can give an independent opinion on it after seeing the information.”
When the last two lines of the ECP decision were not mentioned, the court questioned whether the federal government could still act. The government could still act, the lawyer claimed because the issue was in the public eye.
How the ECP had the right to refer the matter to the federal government was a question raised by Justice Aurangzeb. The attorney responded by saying that the commission had received the information and had given it to the government. He continued by saying that the petitioner still faces additional punishment.
According to Justice Farooq, it would not have mattered if the ECP had not reported the case to the federal government because, by law, the electoral watchdog could only seize the money.
After the PTI counsel claimed that the proceedings before the ECP were not “fair,” he insisted that the court’s role was to uphold the law rather than resolve political disputes.
The ECP lawyer responded that the matter would be resolved if the party could successfully defend itself when Justice Aurangzeb questioned what would happen if PTI successfully contested the ECP’s show cause notice against it.
The ECP attorney stated, “We will listen to the PTI with an open mind in the show cause.”
According to the PTI’s attorney, only the PTI was investigated.
The court noted that the ECP had stated that they are not acting in accordance with Section 2C. (3).
Mansoor recommended removing the final two lines from the Election Commission’s report.
The CJ insisted that the ECP was giving the party a chance and questioned what the PTI desired, noting that the ECP had stated that the points that the PTI had addressed would not be considered in the final decision.
“You can come to the court,” he continued, “if you are not satisfied with the decision again.”
Mansoor argued that the ECP misinterpreted the law and that the commission would only remove issues pertaining to funding.
According to the chief justice, the PTI was heard even after the report of the scrutiny committee and, in theory, had already passed the point of exposure. The ECP was prepared to hear from the PTI once more, he continued.
The court added that it would investigate the party’s concerns regarding the last two lines of the ECP’s decision.
The IHC reserved its decision regarding the petition filed by the PTI challenging the ECP’s ruling after hearing the arguments from the parties.