The PTI’s difficulties obtaining foreign finance are reappearing. In the Financial Times, journalist Simon Clark, who also wrote The Key Man, a book that exposed the allegedly illegal business dealings of embattled business tycoon Arif Naqvi, recently detailed how money raised from foreign businesses and individuals through charity cricket matches was ultimately channelled to the PTI under the supervision of the Abraaj chief.
On his private estate in Wootton, England, Mr. Naqvi is said to have hosted an extremely exclusive cricket T20 tournament from 2010 to 2012, inviting the world’s rich and powerful to participate. Mr. Naqvi was once the widely respected head of a multibillion-dollar private equity firm with headquarters in Dubai. According to reports, the participants were informed that any further contributions or the thousands of pounds in participation fees would go to “philanthropic” causes.
The millions of dollars raised through the fundraising event by Wootton Cricket Ltd, a Cayman Islands company owned and run by Mr. Naqvi, were later transferred through middlemen to the PTI, as Mr. Clark’s inquiry showed.
The fact that a powerful man of Pakistani descent used his riches and connections to help out a friend is not the issue. Imran Khan, a former prime minister of Pakistan, and Mr. Naqvi has never denied being friends or that the former assisted the PTI in soliciting money abroad. However, the FT study reveals that several significant financial backers of Mr. Naqvi’s private cricket league were, in fact, foreign individuals or organisations that are legally forbidden from supporting Pakistani political parties.
The government coalition, which is still reeling from its defeats in Punjab, has been the loudest in demanding that the ECP offer some closure in this long overdue affair. The disclosure has increased calls for the ECP to issue its ruling on the long-running foreign funding case against the PTI.
The PTI, however, insists that there was nothing dishonest or illegal about the manner it gathered money and that it gave the ECP unprecedented access to examine its books. The PTI continues to deny any wrongdoing in the meantime. It also maintains that all political parties, not only the PTI, should be singled out for scrutiny of their foreign funding.
While a court of law alone can determine how involved the PTI was in Mr. Naqvi’s decisions in this case, it is important to note that none of the recent disclosures concerning the PTI’s early fundraising attempts portray a positive picture of the party’s adherence to the law. The party may not be mistaken when it claims that it did nothing that other parties don’t do, but if it did infringe the law, it does not excuse it. It’s time to resolve this issue so that the political process can continue. Nobody will benefit from continued uncertainty.