A new damning revelation has hit Pakistan’s polity in the new year. This time, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has revealed that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had given false information on funding received from abroad and in fact, hid its real assets. The report of the ECP’s scrutiny committee has come like a bombshell to the party and its leader at a time when the Prime Minister stands isolated both domestically and internationally. According to the ECP report, the PTI did not report funds received to the tune of Pak Rupees (PKR) 310 million. Little wonder then that the opposition in Pakistan led by JeI chief Fazlur Rehman has called the PTI, a “party of thieves”.
Fazlur Rehman states that according to the ECP report Imran Khan hid 53 bank accounts. Speaking to the media, Rehman alleged that even if the wrongdoings of all Pak politicians were put together those would still not be comparable to the level of corruption committed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The ECP report, which was made public on 5 January 2022, informs that the PTI received PKR 1.64 billion in funding. The ECP had formed a Scrutiny Committee in 2019 to audit foreign funding received by the PTI. Ironically, this was done at the behest of one of the PTI’s founding members Akbar S. Babar in 2014. He had then alleged that the PTI had got funds from illegal sources abroad. On the ECP’s report being made public recently, Babar tweeted his thanks to Allah, saying he stood “vindicated”.
The committee had been established in terms of Article 6 of the Political Parties Order 2020 read along with Rule 6 of Political Parties Rules, 2002 and in view of the directions contained in the judgment, dated 15 December 2017 in the Muhammad Hanif Abbasi versus Imran Khan Niazi case. According to the data given by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to the ECP, the PTI has 26 bank accounts. Between 2008 and 2013, the PTI disclosed receipt of funds amounting to PKR 1.33 billion to the ECP, whereas SBP figures show the actual amount received at PKR 1.64 billion. The ECP report states that PTI failed to disclose three bank accounts, thus the discrepancy in receipt of funds.
More damning was the revelation that the PTI had received US$ 2.34 million from the US, but the committee had been unable to access these bank accounts. Further, the PTI also received funds from the UK, Denmark, Dubai, Japan, Canada and Australia, apart from a few other countries. A private bank provided details to SBP regarding US$ 2.2 million funds being received by the PTI from Dubai, however, the scrutiny committee couldn’t get further details. It was also unable to obtain information related to the funds received from the UK and Europe. Geo News reports that within Pakistan, 1,414 companies provided funds, while from overseas 47 companies, and 119 potential companies provided funds to the PTI.
The latest revelations have created a furore across the political spectrum in Pakistan. Fazlur Rehman lashed out at PM Imran khan for “corruption and hiding foreign funding worth millions from the Election Commission of Pakistan.” Referring to the scrutiny committee report, he said that the report on foreign funding has revealed everything about the ruling PTI, therefore, “whatever I had already predicted about Imran Khan is turning out to be true.”
The JUI leader also said that the life of Imran Khan is completely “opposite of his own ideal words”. Several PML-N leaders have in fact, demanded Imran Khan’s resignation after the release of the ECP report. PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif termed the report a ‘damning indictment’ of PM Imran Khan. He tweeted: “PTI has been running away from foreign funding case for last seven years and now we know why.” The ECP scrutiny team report also revealed that the PTI had concealed 53 bank accounts, reporting only 12 in the foreign funding case. The report said the SBP revealed that the PTI had 65 bank accounts.
Hafiz Hamdullah, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) spokesperson said in a statement that the committee’s report revealed the theft of “Imran Khan and the PTI.” He added that the report had proved that Imran Khan was not “sadiq and ameen” anymore and demanded that the Prime Minister should reveal the purpose for which the hidden bank accounts were maintained. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, PML-N Vice President claimed that Imran Khan had not only “hidden and stolen money, but also plundered the people.” Fazlur Rehman is quoted by Geo News as having stated that PTI was the only party that introduced the culture of hurling abuses in politics, while referring to ECP report during a joint press conference along with Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) Chairman Mustafa Kamal here on Wednesday.
This is not the first time that Imran Khan or his party the PTI have been accused of corruption. In 2018, in the run up to the publication of the Pandora Papers, Pakistani television station, ARY-News had reported, “the owner of two offshore companies registered at a similar address as of Prime Minister Imran Khan has revealed that they were registered by him on a different address and denied any role of the premier in this regard.” The Pandora Papers also revealed that key members of Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers, their families and major financial backers had secretly owned an array of companies and trusts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth.
Al Jazeera reported in 2018 that two key financial backers of Khan’s PTI party had also been named in the Pandora Papers: banker Arif Naqvi and businessman Tariq Shafi. Naqvi, a major donor to Khan’s 2013 election campaign, transferred ownership of three luxury apartments, a country estate, and a suburban London property in the UK, to an offshore trust operated by Deutsche Bank in 2017. Naqvi was subsequently charged by US prosecutors with more than US$ 400 million in fraud, and, faces extradition to that country while resident in the UK. Shafi, another large PTI donor, was shown to hold US$ 215 million through offshore companies.
The sordid story of corruption in the incumbent government of Imran Khan continues to rock Pakistan. However, for good reason the Pakistan Army continues to tacitly support PM Imran Khan. This is because the military in Pakistan itself has had a long record of indulgence in corrupt practices and therefore, they are quite willing to look the other way, when it suits them. While the opposition has raised its voice against corruption by the PTI and Imran Khan, it has little effect on the government. An almost bankrupt Pakistan with a corrupt government is the perfect recipe for disaster.