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Pakistan’s election commission has ruled that former prime minister Imran Khan’s party received illegal foreign funds, according to local media reports, a decision that could pave the way for banning the party and the ousted prime minister from politics.
The ruling came on Tuesday in a long-standing case accusing Mr Khan of receiving funds for his political party from a foreign entity, which is illegal in Pakistan.
The verdict was announced by a three-member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which found that the party received funding from 34 foreigners or foreign companies.
The tribunal said the party had submitted a fake affidavit about its bank accounts, and it had determined that the party hid 13 bank accounts that it should have declared.
The ECP bench said PTI was a “willing recipient” of prohibited money amounting to $2,121,500 (£1,738,993), according to the Dawn newspaper quoting the written order.
Other entities Mr Khan’s party was found to have received donations from include SS Marketing Manchester, a UK-based private company, UAE-based Bristol Engineering Services and E-Planet Trustees, a Cayman Islands private registered company, the website reported.
The commission asked the party to submit an explanation as to why its funds should not be seized.
The decision comes after a report from the Financial Times revealed that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the party of the former cricket icon turned politician, received funding from Wootton Cricket Club belonging to the Dubai-based Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi.
The funds were generated through a charity match and an Arab personality also pitched in a large sum of money, reported Geo News.
The report prompted calls for an early announcement of the verdict by the incumbent parties that have taken over power after ousting Mr Khan in a historic no-confidence motion. The judgement was earlier reserved by the ECP.
Mr Khan, who has been aggressively campaigning against the government demanding fresh elections and alleging a US-backed conspiracy behind his ousting, now faces a ban from politics.
Reacting to the verdict, Fawad Chaudhry, a PTI spokesperson, told reporters the party will be challenging the ruling.
“We will challenge this ruling,” Mr Chaudhry said outside the ECP office in Islamabad, adding that the funds in question were received from overseas Pakistanis, which is not illegal.
“I don’t understand why the PML-N, the JUI and the PPP have declared overseas Pakistanis the enemy. We consider overseas Pakistanis to be the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and will continue to rely on them for our funding,” Dawn news quoted Mr Chaudhry as saying.
The person who filed the complaint against the party and is a former close associate of Mr Khan, Akbar S Babar, hailed the ruling.
“All the accusations against Imran Khan have been proven,” Mr Babar, who fell out with Mr Khan, told reporters, adding that the former prime minister should step down from the party.
The decision, even if legally challenged by the party, could prove to be a huge setback for Mr Khan’s political career as the country is set to have elections in the next few months.
Mr Khan’s own campaign against the incumbent government formed by a coalition of two rivals, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Parties, that came together to oust Mr Khan, is based on allegations over the role of foreign powers in Pakistan and corruption.
He has also lashed out at the ECP in the past alleging that the commission chief is biased against PTI, and demanding a fresh appointment.
Once Pakistan’s most revered cricketer, Mr Khan still maintains strong support in the country after his ousting, and has attracted huge crowds to recent political rallies.
Additional reporting by agencies