Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf’s (PTI) counsel Anwar Mansoor on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the PTI-USA Limited Liability Company (LLC) acts as the party’s agent to collect funds from Pakistanis living abroad and to grants them membership to the party.
Mansoor maintained that this manner of gathering donations from party members abroad is not illegal.
Mansoor was presenting the PTI’s case before a three-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, which has been hearing a petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abassi, seeking the disqualification of PTI chief Imran Khan and Secretary General Jehangir Tareen.
The petition accuses the two PTI leaders of concealing their assets from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and seeks to unseat them based on their alleged violations of the lncome Tax Ordinance, 1979 and the Peoples Act, 1974.
The petition, which was accepted by the apex court in November last year, also accuses the PTI of being a ‘foreign-funded’ party.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Mansoor told the bench that the PTI is registered under the US Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).
“PTI-USA LLC is the party’s agent and is registered with FARA on the name of an individual,” Mansoor told the bench.
Mansoor told the court that donations from overseas Pakistanis are accepted on an individual basis.
“The purpose of the LLC is to provide membership to Pakistani Americans and gather donations from them,” the counsel told the court.
“This kind of funding is not illegal under the Public Representation Act,” Mansoor maintained.
The counsel was maintaining his line of defence from previous hearings: that parties are allowed to accept donations from members and supporters, even those living abroad and holding dual nationalities.
“The prosecution has argued that those who have dual citizenship are not Pakistanis,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial, a member of the bench, reminded the counsel.
“Who will determine whether or not they are Pakistani?” he asked.
Chief Justice Nisar asked the lawyer why an agent had to be appointed. Mansoor told the chief justice that this was a legal requirement.
Nisar further asked if those holding dual nationalities could become members of political parties in Pakistan. Mansoor replied that they could.
“You accept that funds were collected from abroad but you do not want the Election Commission of Pakistan to question you,” Justice Faisal Arab, a member of the bench, remarked.
The PTI’s counsel has maintained before the court that the ECP does not have the jurisdiction to scrutinise PTI’s accounts.
Mansoor has argued that once a party’s accounts and assets are made public, the ECP’s jurisdiction to investigate them is curbed.
“If a local company is providing busses and planes to a party through prohibited means, who will investigate?” the chief justice had asked the lawyer.
“Who has the jurisdiction to investigate illegal funding [of political parties]?” he asked
Nisar told Mansoor that if the ECP becomes aware of illegal funding, then it does have the right to investigate.
“The ECP is not a court where investigations are carried out upon the complaint [of a petitioner],” the counsel argued.
“We can ask the ECP to clarify this matter,” the chief justice said.
The PTI also submitted documents concerning the PML-N before the apex court, arguing that the PTI is not the only party with branches abroad.
“All other parties accept donations from abroad as well,” Mansoor argued.
“The PML-N has a registered company in Britain and collects funds from there,” Mansoor said as he completed his arguments.
The documents state that the ruling party has a company in Wales called PML-N UK, which was registered under the Companies Act 2006 in September 2015.
According to the company’s statement of objects, also included in the documents submitted before the court, the company is authorised to receive funds for development, democracy and education.
Before Wednesday’s proceedings ended, the court asked the PML-N’s counsel to submit a response to the matter of dual citizenship.