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ECP expresses dissatisfaction over Imran’s answers to party funding case

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction over Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s reply to a petition seeking his disqualification on charges of collecting party funds from “prohibited” sources.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza ─ who was heading the ECP bench which took up the case ─ suggested that the defendants offer straightforward answers after hearing Khan’s counsel, Shahid Gondal’s arguments.

Gondal submitted his objections to the petition submitted by Hashim Ali Bhutta, who the PTI believes is being backed by the PML-N, although Bhutta had filed the plea in a personal capacity.

Bhutta had attached some documents to his petition which support his claims that the PTI had received around $3 million through various sources in Texas and California.

Under the country’s laws, a political party cannot receive funds from foreign individuals or organisations. All party chiefs are required to submit a declaration to the ECP in this regard while submitting details of their party assets.

“The petitioner Hashim Bhutta is the son of former PML-N MNA Naseer Bhutta,” Gondal told the CEC.

“He (Bhutta) has filed the petition on the request of PML-N.”

Gondal went on to insist that the petitioner and his family were ardent supporters of the ruling party: “Naseer Bhutta had issued statements in favour of the Sharif family during their Hudaibiya Papers case in the High Court.”

“A direct request in the ECP against the disqualification of Imran Khan cannot be filed,” he argued.

“The Election Commission should hear our objections before moving ahead,” Gondal told the bench.

“You first need to decide whether you can even hold a hearing on this petition or not,” Gondal retorted.

Responding to Khan’s counsel, the CEC suggested that the defendants offer straightforward answers: “You are avoiding answering the real question by refusing to address this issue as well.”

Postponing the hearing till July 12, the CEC expressed his dismay, saying, “We thought we would postpone this hearing indefinitely today.”

Replying to the statement by retired justice Raza, Gondal said, “You should express less anger at us.”

The CEC took stern notice of the comments made by the counsel, saying, “You have refrained from answering our questions for two and a half years, and now you are even threatening us.”