After eight years of denials, delays and lies, in a unanimous decision, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has declared Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) guilty of receiving prohibited funds from foreign nationals. The ruling states that PTI received funds from 34 foreign entities. According to article 6(3) of the Political Parties Act 2002, financial contributions made, directly or indirectly, by any foreign government, a multi-national or domestically incorporated public or private company, firm, trade or professional association is prohibited and political parties may only accept contributions and donations from individuals. In the report presented by the ECP, it can be seen that PTI received foreign funding from multiple multinational and foreign companies. PTI may not have received any funding from any foreign government or agency, but it did break the law by receiving it from sources other than mere individuals.
In PTI’s perspective and according to some lawmakers, the party only received funding from companies registered in PTI’s name as the US law states that individuals cannot collect money for any funding. They claim that PTI has a large base of supporters around the world and as individuals, they funded the political party by any means possible. However, this did not work well as an opposing argument in front of the ECP. Moreover, reports are emerging that the funds sent to the PTI by Wootton Cricket Limited, a UAE-based company, were collected at a fundraiser where attendees thought that the money collected was going to be used for some charity. However, now they have found out that they funded Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf instead. Moreover, PTI was also funded by a woman named Ms Romita Shetty, who is of Indian origin.
The verdict may have far-reaching implications for the PTI. This decision will definitely affect PTI’s performance in the next general elections. Although, many will try to justify this by saying that foreign funding is not new to Pakistan as many politicians have previously been funded by Osama Bin Laden, a certain foreign government and even from within the state by certain institutions. However, funding is never justified, especially if it’s foreign. The problem with this is that no agency or body, governmental or corporate funds another country’s political parties unless it requires some benefits. It is not about the PTI but any party that does this must be disqualified as its interests are not in favour of Pakistan or its people but only with itself.
The ECP must take a strict decision now. The prohibited foreign funds must have been confiscated by the state, instead, the PTI has been given another show cause notice to explain this. The party will play with this request and with its social media power, it will increase the pressure on the ECP chief to resign. PTI chief and former prime minister Imran Khan was already calling for the resignation of the ECP chief well before the decision was made. Now the pressure will mount and it will become difficult for the ECP chief to keep his position and power.
In order to prevent this in the future, political parties must be ordered to maintain transparency so that such blunders do not occur again. Moreover, fund collection rules should be devised and made simple so that no party can find loopholes in existing rules and twist them in their favour. Right now, it is time for PTI to accept defeat and work towards becoming more honest before pointing fingers at others.