ISLAMABAD: Nawaz Sharif, who has thrice been the prime minister of Pakistan, on Tuesday urged the Pakistani government to take legal action against ex-PM Imran Khan after an elections oversight body declared his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party received “prohibited” funds.
The case against Khan’s party was filed in 2014 by a disgruntled PTI member, Akbar S Babar, who accused the party of receiving illegal funds from abroad.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declared Khan’s party concealed bank accounts and received funds from foreign individuals and entities. It identified foreign accounts in the United States (US), Britain, Australia, Canada and other countries that made transactions to PTI accounts.
The verdict came as a major setback for the cricketer-turned-politician and may as well lead to a ban on his party. Khan’s PTI has denied any wrongdoing.
“At this time, I will strongly urge the government and then I will also ask the political parties of Pakistan to play their role, let us put an end to evil forever,” Sharif, the elder brother of PM Shehbaz Sharif, told reporters in London.
“Whatever action law and the constitution suggest against him (Khan), let’s take that action immediately, take it immediately. This person has destroyed the society of Pakistan.”
Sharif said Tuesday’s ruling proved the “biggest robbery” against Khan, who has been running a campaign against the incumbent government and the chief election commissioner since his ouster through a no-trust vote in April.
Khan recently urged his party’s supporters to protest outside the ECP office in Islamabad on Thursday to press for the resignation of top election official.
“He (Khan) has been involved in huge money laundering. He knew this and that is why he was repeatedly saying the chief election commissioner must resign,” Sharif added.
Denying the allegations of any wrongdoing, members of Khan’s party have announced challenging the ECP verdict in court.
Justice (retired) Shaiq Usmani told Arab News it was now up to the federal government if it wanted to declare the PTI a party that “has been operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan.”
He said if the government made such a declaration, it would be required to refer the matter to the Supreme Court within 15 days “whose decision on the reference will be final.”
“The Supreme Court may ban the party if the PTI fails to justify in response to the show-cause notice that it received all the funding from legal sources,” Usmani said on Tuesday. “But disqualification of Imran Khan from holding any public office on the basis of the election commission’s judgment is out of the question.”
Irfan Qadir, a former attorney-general of Pakistan, said the ECP verdict could have “serious consequences” for PTI leadership. “Let’s see how the federal government reacts to this verdict,” he added.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) think tank, said the ECP verdict could lead to further legal actions in the country.
“ECP judgment on Prohibited Funding Case seems to be as bad for PTI as it could be,” Mehboob said on Twitter, explaining various facts the verdict had established.
“This sets the stage for next round.”
He said the PTI might be penalized for the irregularities identified in the ECP ruling, but it was the only party which developed and implemented an elaborate fund-raising strategy, shunning dependence on a few.
“I wish PTI had been more sensitive to the law,” Mehboob added.