The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to conclude the foreign funding case against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) within 30 days.
The court also dismissed the petition of PTI seeking to stop ECP from sharing documents with Akber S Baber and upheld the decision of ECP. Justice Mohsin Akhter Kayani of IHC announced the verdict, which was earlier reserved after listening to the arguments of both sides. PTI had challenged the decisions of ECP dated January 25 and 31. It prayed the court to stop the ECP from sharing the case record with complainant Akber S Baber and also stop him from giving arguments related to it.
The PTI said that the ECP had collected the record itself and Akber S Baber should be allowed to argue only on documents submitted by him. The foreign funding case has been pending with ECP since 2014. Separately, IHC on Thursday ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to not harass the PTI’s social media activists and party workers.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the orders to the watchdog while presiding over the hearing of a petition submitted by the PTI’s Ali Nawaz Awan.
The petition had mentioned the federation of Pakistan, inspector generals for Punjab and Islamabad, FIA’s director general (DG) and its Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) director as respondents. It had requested the court to order the respondents to stop the harassment of and illegal raids at PTI’s party workers’ homes, and refrain from violating the honour and privacy of the workers’ families and declare the FIA and police’s actions as illegal.
Among other directions, Justice Minallah summoned the CCW director and ordered the DG FIA to strictly implement standard operating procedures. He said the court would have listened to the matter even if it was brought up at night. Awan was represented in the court via his counsel Advocate Faisal Chaudhry. “You know how the court dealt with the FIA?” Justice Minallah asked Chaudhry, referring to the court’s actions while hearing matters related to the controversial PECA Ordinance.
The PTI counsel said the action was being taken against the party’s supporters following the change in government after Imran Khan’s ouster via a no-confidence vote. “FIA conducted two raids on the house of [PTI’s] social media head Dr Arsalan Khalid,” he mentioned. The court adjourned the hearing of the case till 10 am today.
Later, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar congratulated the party’s social media activists and supporters on the court’s order. The FIA counterterrorism wing sprang into action after a vilification drive against the army chief was launched on social networking websites following Khan’s ouster. Since last Sunday, the top trending hashtags on Twitter were those targeting the army, the judiciary and the new government, and on Tuesday the tweets using those hashtags soared to 4.3 million.
Most of the social media activists associated with the PTI had reportedly gone underground to evade the FIA crackdown. On Sunday, the house of Khan’s focal person on digital media, Dr. Arsalan Khalid, was raided in Lahore by plainclothes officers, who took away a laptop and some mobile phones. He was accused of running a social media campaign against a certain state institution. The PTI claimed Dr. Khalid had never abused anyone on social media or attacked any institution.