Prohibited funding: Court suspends FIA notice to Imran

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday suspended the notice issued by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to former Prime Minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan in a prohibited funding case.

Justice Asjad Javed Ghural of the LHC passed the order on the petition moved by the PTI Chairman against the FIA’s notice in the prohibited funding case. Justice Ghural barred the FIA from harassing the PTI Chairman and directed both sides to come up with their reply during the next hearing of the case. The court also issued notice to the Attorney General of Pakistan. During the proceedings, PTI’s legal team headed by Advocate Intizar Hussain Panjhuta represented Imran Khan.

Advocate Usman Saleem Chaudhary was also part of the PTI’s legal team. The judge asked Khan’s lawyer whether any action could be taken against a political party after instructions of the federal government. “Does this inquiry have any legal protection or not?” asked the judge while addressing Khan’s lawyer, to which Advocate Panjhuta replied: “It doesn’t have any legal protection as the due process has not been followed.” The agency’s officials, however, opposed the petition, pointing out that the PTI’s accounts were opened with the signatures of the party’s top leadership. At this, the court asked the PTI’s lawyer, “do you accept these accounts?” Advocate Punjhuta replied, “There are 13 accounts that the PTI doesn’t accept.” After hearing both sides, the court suspended the FIA notice and sought replies from both sides and put off further hearings till December 7.

On Monday, Justice Ali Zia Bajwa of the LHC rescued himself for personal reasons from hearing a petition moved by former Prime Minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan challenging FIA’s notice in the prohibited funding case. “I don’t want to hear this case filed by Advocate Intizar Hussain Panjotha for personal reasons,” observed Justice Bajwa at the outset of the hearing. Justice Bajwa sent the case file to the Chief Justice to fix it before any other bench after the counsel representing the PTI Chairman made a plea that direction is given to fix the case for hearing the same day.

Imran Khan had made the Ministry of Interior, DG FIA, Deputy Director FIA and the Investigation officer respondents in the petition.  He submitted that the agency sent him to notice with the intent of political victimization on Oct 31. “The FIA’s inquiry regarding PTI Punjab’s bank account is based on bad faith. The probe was initiated to harass the former prime minister,” read the petition, pointing out that the probe was aimed at benefiting the political rivals. It also said, “No one has ever objected to the PTI’s opening party bank accounts. And in the ECP’s (Election Commission of Pakistan) ruling there are no instructions for FIA to investigate [PTI’s] bank accounts”.

The petition said that the ECP neither asked Khan for an explanation nor did it demand any details about his bank accounts. It submitted, “The ECP had only asked Khan to furnish a record of the transaction”.

Fida Hussnain is a correspondent covering judiciary, politics, business and health issues. He is also a feature writer and researcher with major work on freedom of press in Pakistan. He tweets @fidahassanain and can be reached at fidahassanain@gmail.com.

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