Islamabad: Pakistani politicians called for election authorities to order a probe into former prime minister Imran Khan’s party after the Financial Times reported that it allegedly received prohibited donations from foreign citizens and companies.
The article alleged that Pakistani tycoon Arif Naqvi used a charity cricket tournament to facilitate donations to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party from his Dubai-based private equity group Abraaj and a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family. Pakistan bars foreign nationals and companies from funding political parties.
Criticism of Khan came from prime minister Shehbaz Sharif, while leaders from his Pakistan Muslim League (N) party asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to release a years-long investigation into PTI’s funding. Sharif replaced Khan in April after the former cricketer, who was elected in 2018, was ousted in a no-confidence vote.
“I urge Imran Khan to file a defamation case against Financial Times for publishing the article,” Sharif wrote on Twitter. “If he doesn’t and I am sure he wouldn’t, it will prove one more time how brazenly he is lying and cheating the people of Pakistan.”
The dispute over PTI’s alleged foreign funding comes as Khan rides a wave of popular anger over Pakistan’s economic crisis to try to force early elections. The PTI won crucial local polls in Punjab this month, adding to Khan’s political momentum, but PML-N leaders have used the allegations of foreign funding to try to discredit him.
“We have requested the Election Commission that it is your constitutional responsibility to come out with this report and take action accordingly,” said Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a PML-N leader and former prime minister, according to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “It is the responsibility of the Election Commission to decide the case at the earliest.”
At a press conference, the PTI denied any wrongdoing, saying the donations it received were accounted for and recorded. Khan told the FT that “it will not be appropriate to prejudge PTI” before the outcome of the Election Commission investigation.