PDM to march to ECP, PTI readies defence

–Rasheed says Opp should not negatively affect law and order situation during protest

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart Marriyum Aurangzeb has said that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) would take out rallies from different parts of the federal capital and Rawalpindi to march to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) office in regard to the foreign funding case.

The PDM will “get a decision from the ECP that it is not giving since 2014”, she said while addressing a press conference in Islamabad along with other party leaders.

Claiming that illegal funding had been provided to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) through 23 foreign accounts, the PML-N leader said that the march on January 19 was to finally get a decision from the ECP on the long pending case.

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“The case was registered in 2014. What reason does the ECP have [to delay a verdict] when the PTI has accepted that agents did illegal funding? They should be ready to write the judgement,” she further said.

“[The PTI] accepted that money was gotten illegally through 23 foreign funded accounts that were not declared accounts and that money was [deposited] in PTI accounts [through cheques],” she said on the occasion

“Signs of President [Dr Arif Alvi], Sindh Governor [Imran Ismail] and Imran Khan sahib himself [along with] other PTI leaders are present on those cheques,” she claimed.

“PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz will preside over the rally and all PDM leaders will be there,” she informed the media persons.

Furthermore, while responding to the demotion notice issued by Advisor to the PM on Interior and Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar, she said she had “raised valid questions and I stand by them today”.

The PML-N leader further said that “such people do not understand defamation when they wave papers [during press conferences] and make false allegations against people”.

“You tell lies, I will expose you. You disrespect other people, I will disrespect you. You defame others, I will defame you,” she lambasted.

Meanwhile, the PTI on Wednesday prepared its a new line of defence in the foreign funding case. Instead of outright denying any illegal funding from the United States, the ruling party sent a written response to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s scrutiny committee, wherein it claimed that if any funds were collected illegally, the responsibility lies with agents.

“The principal has given clear instructions and if the agent goes beyond those instructions without disclosing it to the principal, without seeking ratification of those acts and without even sending that money to the principal, then it is submitted that the principal will not be liable under section 228 and not admit/certify such contents. The fact that the principal neither had knowledge nor has received the proceeds exhibits the bona fide of the principal,” the document carrying PTI’s reply went on to argue.

The case, which had been originally filed by a founding member of the PTI, Akbar S Babar, claimed that there were irregularities of up to $3 million in handling of foreign funding.

The petitioner’s counsel, Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah, protested against the continued refusal of the scrutiny committee to share the PTI financial documents and contended that by refusing to share the documents, the committee was in violation of ECP Order, issued on May 30, 2018 that rejected the PTI plea of keeping these documents and the scrutiny process secret, reported Geo News.

Separately, while speaking on the PDM’s plans ahead of the scheduled sit-in, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed told PDM President Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman to focus on Islam as “Islamabad is not in his fate”.

Five ministers — Rasheed, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Information Minister Shibli Faraz, Science Minister Fawad Chaudhry, and Law Minister Farogh Naseem — addressed the press conference after a cabinet committee meeting on public order.

The interior minister stressed that the opposition should not incite people into violence in the name of religion and also made it clear that PM Imran will not recognise Israel at any cost.

“We consider religious forces to be the beacon of Islam,” Rasheed said, adding that a committee had been made that comprises Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri and him.

“We hope that the Opposition does not negatively affect law and order during its protest outside the Election Commission of Pakistan,” Rasheed said on the occasion.

Speaking about the foreign funding case which prompted the sit-in, he claimed the PTI had shown the signatures of 40,000 people as an endorsement of the party’s stance. The PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have yet to produce a single cheque, he added.

“Protest is your basic right, but the Supreme Court had stated in the Faizabad sit-in hearing that a protest cannot take place everywhere,” Farogh Naseem said on the occasion.

“Staging protests in Islamabad is allowed and the prime minister has tweeted in this regard as well,” Shibli Faraz said, adding that there will be no obstacles in the way of the PDM sit-in, but that specific spots should be marked for protests.

Faraz also jibed at the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief, and said that as Fazl does not eat pizza, they will serve him halwa.

Meanwhile, science minister Fawad Chaudhry slammed the Opposition and said that they had “criticised every state institution — and did not spare anyone.”

A day earlier, the premier, while chairing a high-level meeting on law and order situation, had said that PDM should be allowed to protest in front of the ECP and that no obstacle should be put in their way.

PM Imran had also directed the interior minister to provide fool-proof security to the protesters, and had stated that no one should be allowed to create law and order situation in the Red Zone.

During the meeting, PM Imran had also tasked Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed with ensuring that the madrassa students are not able to attend the PDM meeting.

PDM chief Fazlur Rehman has already warned of a long march towards Islamabad if Prime Minister Imran does not meet the opposition’s demand of resigning by January 31.

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