Faizabad Dharana: TLP Received Prohibited Foreign Funds Worth Rs1.5M, ECP Tells Supreme Court

Apex poll regulator gives TLP clean chit, says its inquiry did not show the party was involved in any anti-state or terror activities

Faizabad Dharana: TLP Received Prohibited Foreign Funds Worth Rs1.5M, ECP Tells Supreme Court

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) is neither involved in any anti-state or terrorist activity. And while it received some prohibited funding from abroad, it was not significant enough to warrant any action.

The commission stated this in a three-page reply submitted to the top court in the Faizabad Dharna Case. The top court has been hearing review petitions filed against the Supreme Court's judgement in the Faizabad Dharna case, wherein intelligence agencies including the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI) -- and the army's media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), were directed not to exceed their constitutional mandates.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah, is expected to take up the matter next week on November 1. The Supreme Court Registrar's office has issued notices to the respondents, including the Attorney General of Pakistan.

In its original judgement on the Faizabad Dharna, the court quoted a statement from the ECP that the TLP had not provided any information about its funding despite repeated directions. The judgment had further observed that ECP had confided to the then-bench that the TLP did not account for its funds and election expenses but, surprisingly, professed its helplessness because it believes the law is cosmetic in nature.

However, the court directed the ECP to launch an inquiry into the party, its source of funding and its activities. In compliance with the court's directions, the commission initiated an inquiry into TLPs' alleged involvement in anti-state activities and the source of its funds.

In the reply submitted on Thursday, the ECP said that it issued notices to the Ministry of Interior, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and other security agencies seeking comprehensive reports on the activities of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan.

After examining and analysing these reports, the commission concluded that TLP was not involved in any anti-state or terrorist activity, nor was it proscribed. Subsequently, the ECP disposed of the inquiry as "withdrawn".

The commission told the top court that it reviewed the sources of TLP's funds as empowered under Article 17(3) of the Constitution, read with Section 210 of the Elections Act, 2017, and Rule 161 of the Election Rules, 2017. In this regard, a notice was sent to TLP's chief.
The TLP submitted its consolidated statements of accounts, liabilities and assets in response. The commission entrusted the process of scrutinising these documents to a committee on May 8, 2019.

This scrutiny committee concluded its probe and submitted a report to the commission on July 10, 2019. The ECP, however, did not mention the period for which the accounts and statements of assets and liabilities were scrutinised.

After affording an opportunity to the TLP to respond to the scrutiny committee's report in a hearing on July 22, 2019, the ECP concluded the matter on December 9, 2019.

"We have no reason to hold, and so was it remarked by the committee that such small amount was received through prohibited foreign funding."

It added that for a political party like the TLP, an amount of Rs1.586 million was "peanuts".

"Had it been dubious, the party could have suppressed such a small amount quite easily," the commission concluded.

The ECP added that the TLP could have avoided receiving the deposit in its accounts, but this was not done. 

"There being no evidence to the contrary, such meagre amount cannot be ducked as having being received through prohibited foreign funding," the commission noted and certified that TLP had duly accounted for the funds it received and subsequently withdrew the notice issued to them.

ECP assured the top court that it had complied with the directions of the top court.

"The commission is cognizant of its duties and functions; it does not subscribe to the views of the representatives regarding the word ["Cosmetic"] used for election laws. The Commission shall always act as a constitutional forum in performance of its authority," the reply concluded.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain