LONDON: The Election Commission of Pakistan’s Scrutiny Committee has said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf didn’t share details of two UK accounts which sent money for PTI’s politics in Pakistan but the person incharge of PTI’s finances in the UK has said that he sent every penny raised in the UK to Pakistan and fulfilled all legal responsibilities in the UK.
Speaking to this correspondent, Muhammad Iqbal said he can confirm that all funds raised in the UK have been sent to Pakistan and “we have never carried out any kind of investment whatsoever and this will also be reflected in our balance sheets filed at the Companies House”.
Muhammad Iqbal from Stoke-on-Trent – known commonly as Mo Iqbal who made his fortunes in tiles business – was made Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly’s in August last year after PTI won in Azad Kashmir. It’s understood that Mo Iqbal was able to become the AJK Assembly member on the seat reserved for overseas Pakistanis on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recommendation. PM Imran Khan handed over full control of PTI UK’s finances and membership affairs to Mo Iqbal nearly ten years ago and since then Mo Iqbal has reported directly to Mr Khan, while otherwise keeping a low political profile.
Muhammad Iqbal said that the legal structure of PTI UK is independent from Pakistan and “all monies that are raised are sent to wherever the donors wish them to be sent to” and “in terms of PTI membership all funds go to PTI Pakistan”. PTI’s former leader Akbar S Babar has said the ECP scrutiny committee has vindicated all his charges about dubious foreign funding of tens of millions to the PTI and corruption in it. He has claimed that PTI has concealed funds of billions because they were received from prohibited sources. He said the fact that the PTI didn’t share details of UK bank accounts with the ECP meant that its sources were unclean and corrupt and that PTI had to hide something. The Scrutiny Committee has documented that not a single PTI bank account maintained abroad has been shared with it despite repeated orders of the Scrutiny Committee.
The accounts maintained abroad include at least two accounts in the USA (PTI NA LLC 5975 & 6160), two in Lloyd’s Bank in Britain (PTI UK registration number 07381036 functional at Lloyds Bank (Sort Code: 309290, Account: 00191424) and account number 26675768), one in Australia, one New Zealand, one in Finland, one in Norway besides others.
When asked why PTI didn’t share the UK bank account details with the ECP, Mo Iqbal said that PTI’s UK accounts are “owned or controlled by PTI Pakistan”. Mo Iqbal said: “PTI UK is a legal entity established by overseas diaspora to support PTI funds, therefore there is no jurisdiction for any authority in Pakistan to this entity. It would be entirely possible and legal for PTI UK to not send funds to Pakistan if it did not wish to. “We operate a membership system and donations are collected and where possible any member’s request is adhered to in terms of where funds should be ultimately spent. The PTI UK admin/finance team led by myself has always focussed on administration rather than political matters.”
Muhammad Iqbal explained that PTI UK looks after membership in Europe and in some other countries where digital banking requires a western country. He said: “All monies come into the account via a digital method, we have a strict no cash policy. As all funds are sent to Pakistan and cannot be spent locally. Our financial accounts are prepared by an independent firm and we oblige by all the rules in the UK.”
Mo Iqbal, who has been incharge of PTI funds on an exclusive basis since 2012, said that in the UK he and Shahid Hussain are the “legally responsible people” although over the years several people have sat on steering committees to guide on legal and accounting matters. He shared that currently PTI UK has around 4,500 paid members. Since becoming the AJK legislative assembly member, Mo Iqbal has shifted to Pakistan. He is the chairman of an online tile retailer “Tile Mountain” which is based in Stoke-on-Trent. He employs more than 300 people at the firm and his annual turnover is estimated to be over £60 million.