Pakistani politicians called for election authorities to release a probe into former prime minister Imran Khan’s party over the weekend after the Financial Times reported that it allegedly received prohibited donations from foreign citizens and companies.
An FT 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.
Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif criticized Khan while senior 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 prime minister in 2018, was voted out in a no-confidence vote.
“I urge Imran Khan to file a defamation case against Financial Times for publishing an indicting 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,” Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a PML-N leader and former prime minister, said 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 on Friday the PTI denied any wrongdoing, saying that 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.
Naqvi was arrested in the UK in 2019 and is battling extradition to the US, which has charged him with fraud, theft and attempted bribery.
The tycoon hosted charity cricket tournaments at his country estate in Wootton in Oxfordshire, in the UK, between 2010 and 2012. Funds provided to Wootton Cricket Ltd, a Cayman Islands-incorporated company owned by Naqvi, were ultimately transferred to PTI.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, a United Arab Emirates government minister and Abu Dhabi royal, donated at least $2mn.
The FT also reported that in 2016 Naqvi authorized a $20mn payment allegedly intended for Shehbaz and his brother Nawaz Sharif, who served as prime minister before Pakistan’s Supreme Court removed him from office over corruption allegations. The brothers denied any knowledge of the matter.