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Overdue PTI intra-party elections on June 11

Updated May 14, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan has finally announced that the intra-party elections will be held on June 11 under the newly-appointed election commissioner Senator Azam Swati.

The decision was made in a meeting of the party’s central executive committee (CEC) here on Saturday. Briefing reporters after the meeting, Mr Khan said it also approved the interim constitution of the party.

The meeting passed a resolution demanding the right of vote to overseas Pakis­tanis, he said and alleged that neither the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz nor the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was interested in granting the voting right to expatriate Pakistanis. He said the Supreme Court had also issued a “verdict” in this regard, adding that the PTI was considering taking the matter again to the apex court.

The PTI chief said his party would submit its proposals to the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms in its meeting on Tuesday. “If our proposals are not accepted, then we will see which forums we can use”.

The decision to hold intra-party elections has been announced by the PTI two weeks after the ECP sent written directives to the four provincial election commissions not to allot ‘bat’ as election symbol to the party candidates in any by-election because of its failure to hold intra-party polls.

The PTI had held its last intra-party polls on March 23, 2013 under election commissioner Hamid Khan and, according to its constitution, was supposed to conduct the exercise again by March this year, which it did not.

Mr Khan had dissolved all party organisations in 2015 following complaints of massive rigging in the intra-party elections and in the light of recommendations of a two-member tribunal constituted under retired Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed to probe the charges of rigging and irregularities in the elections.

The tribunal had confirmed the rigging, recommended action against those responsible for it and even called for removal of some key office-bearers of the party, including secretary general Jahangir Tareen. But instead of implementing the tribunal’s recommendations, Mr Khan dissolved the tribunal. It created a rift between Mr Khan and Mr Wajihuddin, which ultimately led to the ouster of the latter from the party.

Then Mr Khan nominated Tasneem Noorani, a former government official, as election commissioner. But he resigned from the post in last March after developing differences with the PTI chief over the mode of election and other technical issues.

According to sources in the PTI, Mr Noorani was of the opinion that electoral contest should be held for every single office of the party but Mr Khan wanted some nominations as well.

Before appointment of Mr Swati as the party’s election commissioner, the PTI chief had nominated Senator Nauman Wazir on the post on a temporary basis. So Mr Swati is the fourth election commissioner nominated by Mr Khan during the last five years or so.

Dissident group’s reaction

Meanwhile, the PTI founders group, a breakaway faction of the party formed by its dissidents, has rejected the planned intra-party elections, saying that “it violates the party’s constitution” and terming it a “sham move aimed at perpetuating dictatorship in the party.”

After consulting other members of the group, its leader Akbar S. Babar said in a statement the “motley crowd” assembled in Islamabad to amend the PTI constitution was neither competent nor qualified to do so. He said the procedure announced by Imran Khan for holding intra-party elections and means adopted to amend the constitution were “illegal and a gross violation of the PTI constitution.”

“How can the intra-party elections be fair under Azam Swati who was accused of vote buying during the last intra-party elections, accusations which were verified by the two-member inquiry committee headed by retd Gen Ali Kuli Khan,” he said.

Mr Babar said section XIII of the PTI constitution stated, “The constitution of the Party can only be amended by the National Council…provided that the proposed amendment is circulated amongst the members of the National Council fourteen days prior to the meeting.” No such method was adopted on Saturday while amending the constitution, he alleged.

Mr Babar, who has filed the foreign funding case over alleged corruption in the PTI and violation of political parties’ funding laws in the ECP, said an urgent meeting of the PTI founders group’s central committee had been convened to decide the legal and political course to be adopted to challenge the planned illegal elections and amendment to the party constitution.”

Meanwhile, an official handout issued by the PTI after the CEC meeting said the huddle exclusively deliberated upon the organisational and intra-party affairs and jointly approved a period of one month for intra-party elections.

PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi apprised the CEC about the proposed amendments to the constitution and the committee unanimously approved the amendments.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2017