ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday reserved judgment on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s application questioning the commission’s jurisdiction to hear a contempt petition, filed against him by a party dissident. The verdict will now be announced on August 10.
An ECP full bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza, reserved its verdict on the maintainability of the contempt petition filed by a PTI founding member, Akbar S. Babar, after hearing out counsels from both sides for nearly two hours.
Mr Babar had filed the case after Imran Khan accused the ECP of political bias and said it was collaborating with the petitioner in the foreign funding case.
Representing Imran Khan before the ECP bench, former senator Babar Awan argued that only the superior judiciary had the power to take up contempt petitions, while parties had the opportunity to file appeals before larger benches.
PTI lawyer backs out of similar case against PML-N’s Daniyal Aziz
As far as the ECP was concerned, he said, parties had no forum of appeal, since a full bench of the commission was hearing the case.
Moreover, he said that accusing a judge or a court of bias did not necessarily constitute contempt. He said that alleging bias was the inherent right of the defendant and could not be labeled ‘contempt’.
During the last hearing on July 19, Mr Babar’s counsel Syed Ahmed Hasan had cited a number of relevant constitutional provisions to establish that the ECP had the power to hear a contempt case.
During a hearing of the contempt petition on July 4, when the PTI chairman did not submit a reply despite repeated directions, the CEC had declared that a verdict would be announced on July 10 in the absence of a response.
Later, during another hearing of a petition of a similar nature, filed by a PTI activist against PML-N MNA Daniyal Aziz, the CEC asked the counsel why they had filed the petition when his party believed the ECP had no constitutional powers to hear the case.
At this, PTI counsel Shahid Gondal told the ECP he was withdrawing his wakalatnama (power of attorney) and would not be pursuing the case.
The ECP had issued the contempt notice to Mr Khan on Jan 24 over his “scandalous remarks” about the commission. The petitioner, who had also filed the foreign funding case against the PTI leadership, had informed the commission that Mr Khan had accused the ECP of being biased in the matter, following which his counsel had tendered an apology with the commission. But Mr Babar claimed that in a TV interview, the PTI chairman said that his counsel had tendered an apology in his personal capacity and that he had not apologised.
Talking to reporters outside the ECP, Mr Babar accused Imran Khan of undermining constitutional bodies by refusing to comply with their orders and alleged that Mr Khan had so far refused to comply with 21 ECP orders.
He also rejected the documents submitted by the party before the Supreme Court on Monday, detailing names of their donors in the US. He said the documents would not be acceptable as evidence since most of them were prepared on Excel.
He said the actual evidence was available on the US Department of Justice’s website, which shows the names of foreign nationals and companies that had illegally donated money to the party.
He also contended that the documents submitted did not include details of PTI UK bank accounts or any mention of the funds raised in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Australia, Canada and several EU countries.
PTI Information Secretary Shafqat Mehmood told Dawn that Mr Babar could not decide whether the documents were admissible or not. He said his party had submitted all required material to the court, which would make a final decision in this regard, adding that there was no need for anyone to comment on the matter.
The PTI spokesperson claimed that the petitioner knew nothing of party funding since he was sacked seven years ago, alleging that Mr Babar was doing all this at the behest of the ruling party.
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2017