Pak election body orders Imran Khan's party to hold intra-party polls within 20 days to retain bat symbol

Pak election body orders Imran Khan's party to hold intra-party polls within 20 days to retain bat symbol

Islamabad, Nov 23 (PTI) Pakistan's election commission on Thursday ordered jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to hold intra-party elections within 20 days to retain the bat as its poll symbol.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) did not conduct transparent elections as per the Constitution.

In August, the commission had given a final warning to the PTI to hold the polls or it could be declared ineligible to obtain an election symbol.

The PTI elections were due on June 13, 2021, under the party’s Constitution but an extension had been granted by the election body. Finally, the party held the election on June 10, 2022 but the ECP rejected it, saying that the party had amended its Constitution two days before holding the polls.

Gohar Ali Khan, representing PTI, had said the party elections were held before an amendment to its Constitution. However, the Chief Election Commissioner claimed that the PTI amended its Constitution on June 8, 2022, and conducted intra-party polls on June 10, 2022. Khan had also said the amendment in the party constitution was later withdrawn.

The polls organising authority had said it issued a final notice to the PTI in May 2022 to ensure the conduct of intra-party elections “on or before June 13, 2022 (extended date), with the observation that no further extension shall be allowed”.

Subsequently, the PTI submitted a copy of the amended party’s Constitution that was deemed “insufficient” by the electoral body.

In October, the ECP had reserved its verdict on the maintainability of a petition by the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party seeking to take away PTI’s ‘bat’ electoral symbol.

Days later, the PTI formally appealed to the electoral body to immediately issue a detailed written order regarding the intra-party elections and poll symbol allocation. The PTI had claimed that the ECP had accepted there had been a misunderstanding and that the elections were held on June 9, 2022.

A four-member commission, headed by Nisar Ahmed Durrani and including Shah Mohammad Jatoi, Babar Hassan Bharwana, and Justice (retired) Ikramullah Khan, presided over the proceedings of the case.

Announcing its reserved verdict on the matter, the ECP on Thursday directed the PTI to hold the intra-party elections within 20 days starting Nov 23 and submit a report to the commission within seven days of it.

The written verdict stated: “We are confirmed in our views that the respondent party failed to hold transparent, just and fair intra-party election in accordance with its prevailing constitution 2019 allegedly held on 10-06-2022, which is highly disputed/objectionable, which could not be accepted at all.” The verdict then warned that in case of failure to hold the polls, the PTI would “suffer the penal consequences of Section 215(5) of the Elections Act 2017 accordingly and would be ineligible to obtain an election symbol for election to Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), etc”.

The ECP highlighted that the documents provided by the chief election commissioner had “made the alleged intra-party election highly objectionable [and] dubious”.

It added there was a “glaring, unexplained contradiction' related to the holding of an intra-party election, 'as to whether the same was held” on June 8, 2022, or June 9 or June 10 that year.

Noting that after the polls were held, the party was supposed to submit a “certificate signed by the office bearers authorised by the party head”, the ECP said, “no such authentic attested copy of document related to amendment in the 2019 constitution and of PTI intra-party election allegedly held on June 6, 2022, was provided till Aug 18, 2022”.

Later, speaking to the media outside the ECP office in Islamabad, Barrister Khan said he was “extremely upset” by the ECP's verdict, adding that the requirements of justice were not met. He claimed the verdict had been delayed for a “special purpose”.

The lawyer said the ECP’s notice had not stated that the intra-party elections were not according to the PTI’s Constitution. Instead, Khan asserted, the notice was about the polls’ documentation being incomplete.

Khan added that the polls were held correctly and in an open manner, along with complete documentation. He said he would challenge the order before the relevant forums.

However, the lawyer expressed “satisfaction” that according to the verdict, the bat was “our (PTI’s) symbol, it still is and it will remain on the ballot paper”.

Meanwhile, a group of PTI’s breakaway leaders who parted ways with the party after May 9 violence and set up the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party have asked the ECP to allot it bat as party symbol.

PTI chief Khan, being a former cricketer, is considered synonymous with the bat and depriving his party of its traditional symbol would be a big blow to the party, observers opine.

Khan is in jail facing dozens of cases and several high profile leaders have left the party, making the holding of fresh election an arduous undertaking, they said. PTI SH/NSA AKJ NSA NPK SCY SCY

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