ISLAMABAD: A new twist has appeared in the lingering controversy of funding to PTI, with the veracity of contributors’ list presented to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf becoming suspect as several contributors, named in the list, raised questions about the use of a charity for political purposes.
The PTI presented a list of individual donors to the ECP scrutiny committee who contributed $0.46 million to the party funds. However, at least 35 percent of those who contributed told The News that they did not donate to the PTI and their donations were meant for the Shaukat Khanum Hospital. Only 27 percent said that their donations were for PTI’s party funds.
The ECP, on a petition moved by Akbar S Babar, a former member of PTI, is hearing the party’s foreign funding case. Besides providing details of the party’s bank accounts and foreign companies, the PTI had also submitted a list of 1,414 names to the ECP’s scrutiny committee who donated $467,320 to the party in 2013.
The News traced the donors whose names were mentioned in the party funding list. For this report, sample data of 80 donors was selected from the list. The News contacted 40 individuals who donated $1,000 or above and 40 individuals who contributed $500 or above.
Of these 80 donors, 29 responded to queries by The News. Only eight individuals (27.5 percent) claimed that they donated to the PTI for political purposes because they believed in Imran Khan; 10 of those 29 respondents (34.5%) said they donated for Shaukat Khanum Hospital because they supported this noble cause; seven individuals (24 percent) said they don’t remember and the remaining four (13.7 percent) refused to answer until this scribe proved his identity with a CNIC card and the purpose of this research.
Some of those who claimed they contributed to the Shaukat Khanum Hospital were astonished to learn that their charity money had been diverted for political purposes. In 2017, the PTI launched a membership campaign in the United States and sent membership cards to party workers residing in the US. It was a paid membership campaign and the party’s US chapter sent congratulatory messages along with payment receipts to the party members.
One such member was Rana Wasif, a resident of Lahore city who had never been out of Pakistan. Rana Wasif was sent an email along with a receipt of 120 dollars and a membership card. According to that email, Rana had paid 120 dollars to the party funds in the US, after which he was given membership to the party. Rana worked in the private sector and was a regular donor of Shaukat Khanum Hospital.
According to Rana, someone took his contact details and other information from the Shaukat Khanum Hospital data and used it for PTI’s political purposes. He contested this with the PTI office bearers in the US and Pakistan as well. Later, when this scribe contacted the-then finance secretary of PTI, Sardar Azhar Tariq, he confirmed that Rana Wasif’s complaint was genuine. M Azam Khan and his wife Naghma Khan, (serial number 36 of the list) donated $1,000 to the party fund as per the scrutiny committee, but Naghma Khan claims the couple never contributed for political purposes. “I donated funds for Shaukat Memorial Hospital, not for political funding. If the money is being diverted, I would like to know,” said Naghma in an email exchange with this scribe. Junaid Siddiqui and Hamid H Siddiqui’s (serial number 628) are on the list.
The report says they donated $3,000 for the party funds but the donors claim otherwise. “My father is a Pakistani resident, most likely if the money was given by me or my father, it was to Shaukat Khanum. We are not PTI supporters nor have any party affiliation,” said Junaid Siddiqui in a WhatsApp conversation with this scribe. Khurram Rasheed (serial number 131 on the list), according to the scrutiny committee’s report, donated $500 to the PTI. However, in his written reply to The News, he claimed, “I donated to Shaukat Khanum Hospital, not to the PTI. I am not a member of the party.” Navaid Abidi (serial number 491) contributed $500 to the party funds. However, Abidi claims he donated to the Shaukat Khanum Hospital. “I believe the donation was for the Shaukat Khanum fundraiser that took place in the Chicago suburbs. So you should see many people from the Chicago donating on the same day. While I generally support the party, I don’t remember ever actually writing a cheque to PTI,” commented Navaid Abidi. Kamran Niazi’s name is also mentioned in the PTI donors list (serial number 1046) who according to the list paid $500, but he says he does not remember giving funds for the party. “I think I contributed to the hospital but don’t remember how much and when. Don’t remember contributing to the party,” he says. There are, however, several individuals who claim they donated for the political campaign of the PTI.
One such person is Afraz Haider (serial number 191 on the list) who donated $1,000 for the party funds. “I did indeed contribute to the PTI here in the US. I do contribute to Shaukat Khanum Hospital but that is separate,” he said. Zahid Hussain Ayub (serial number 919), who donated $500 to the PTI, said in his written reply to this scribe, “I was part of the initial group for the Dallas chapter of PTI…in 2004 or 2005. During the first meeting, I proposed to register a nonprofit here in the US so the money trail is transparent. Eventually, Dr Nasrullah pursued it and PTI USA LLC was registered as a nonprofit under 503. As far as I recall, I always contributed to PTI USA LLC. Fundraising drives in which I was involved were strictly for PTI. I sponsored air tickets for Asad Qaiser, at that time speaker of KP House and MPA Haider Ali of Swat. I also sponsored a ticket for Murad Saeed but then had to cancel because of his degree issue. I have also donated to Namal College.” Mrs. Shazia Nasir (serial number 577) who donated $1,000 for the party funds said, “We donated to the PTI knowing well that 1,000 dollars were for the PTI.”
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, while talking to The News, said, “It is impossible that Shaukat Khanum donations were diverted for political purposes. When an LDC is signed by the donor, the purpose for donation is mentioned on the cheque. Those who have donated $1,000 or above must have paid the donations through cheques. It can be verified from these cheques,” he said. The information minister added that if this scribe provides the names of those donors, then they can verify from the record whether they contributed to the hospital or to party funds.
The News also contacted PTI’s former chief organiser Saifullah Khan Niyazee but he said he cannot respond to these queries. “You should ask these questions to our party’s Finance Secretary Siraj Ahmed,” he said. When contacted, Siraj Ahmed said he cannot talk to this scribe because he was busy in a meeting. He asked me to call him later. However, despite repeated attempts, he did not attend the calls.
Editor’s Note: Shaukhat Khanum is one of the country’s finest NGOs, doing ground breaking work that has benefitted hundreds of thousands and should continue to be supported. This fact-based story in no way attempts to take credit away from that institution.