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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan has formally sent written directives to all the four provincial election commissions not to allot ‘bat’ as election symbol to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf candidates in any future by-elections because of its failure to hold intra-party elections.

According to the letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn, the election authorities in the provinces have been informed about the ECP decision that “symbol bat” could not be allotted to the PTI in future elections “till the completion of intra-party elections and fulfillment of legal requirements by the party”.

After these directives, any ticket holder of the PTI can contest an upcoming by-election on any seat of the National Assembly, provincial assembly or in any local government election as an independent candidate, but not on the party’s election symbol ‘bat’.

Under Section 12 of the Political Parties Order 2002, a party is not eligible to get an election symbol for any election if it fails to hold intra-party elections in accordance with its constitution.

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In a recent by-election on a provincial assembly seat in Chakwal, the ECP had stopped the PTI candidate from contesting the election on symbol of “bat”, but the party managed to get a decision in its favour through the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court at the eleventh hour.

The PTI had accused the ECP of singling out the party. The commission dismissed the allegation as “ridiculous”.

Under Section 11 of the Political Parties Order, the leader and other office-bearers of every political party at the federal, provincial and local levels are required to be elected periodically in accordance with its constitution through secret ballot based on a democratic and transparent system.

Section 12 of the order reads: “The party leader of each political party shall, within seven days of completion of the intra-party elections, submit a certificate under his signatures to the Election Commission to the effect that the elections were held in accordance with the constitution of the party and this Order to elect the party leader and other office-bearers at the federal, provincial and local levels, wherever applicable.”

The certificate should contain information regarding the date of the last party elections, names, designations and addresses of the party leader and all other office-bearers elected at various levels. The election results, including the total number of votes cast and the number of votes secured by each contestant for all of its party offices, and a copy of the party’s notifications declaring the results of the election, are supposed to be submitted as well.

The PTI’s last intra-party elections were held on March 23, 2013, and according to its own constitution, it was supposed to conduct the exercise by March 23, 2017, which it did not.

The PTI has been unable to hold the elections after a number of its members alleged rigging in the last elections. PTI chairman Imran Khan had constituted a tribunal under retired Justice Wajihuddin to investigate the matter.

The tribunal had not only confirmed the rigging but also recommended action against those responsible for it and even called for removal of some key party office-bearers, including secretary general Jahangir Tareen.

But instead of implementing the tribunal’s recommendations, Mr Khan dissolved the tribunal that created a rift between Mr Khan and Justice Wajihuddin, which ultimately led to the ouster of the latter from the party.

Mr Khan then nominated Tasneem Noorani as new election commissioner, but he also resigned from the post in March last year after developing differences with the party chairman over the mode of election and other technical issues.

When contacted, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that the party had recently appointed Senator Azam Swati as new election commissioner to hold elections. He said Mr Swati would soon announce the election schedule.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2017