ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, who faces a contempt charge, finally owned on Monday the unconditional apology tendered by his counsel to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in January — a week before a contempt petition was filed against him.

“The answering respondent reiterates his position earlier taken before this commission. The answering respondent holds the institute of the Election Commission of Pakistan in high esteem and believes in supremacy of ... constitutional forums,” Mr Khan said in a written reply submitted to the ECP.

The contempt petition against Mr Khan had been moved by founding member of the PTI Akbar S. Babar after the ECP found the party’s petition seeking review of the commission’s order requiring it to submit financial documents in the foreign funding case as contemptuous, followed by its immediate withdrawal, apology tendered by his junior counsel Saqlain Haider, and Imran Khan saying that his counsel had tendered apology in his personal capacity. A formal contempt notice had been issued to Mr Khan on Aug 24.

Mr Khan now says that his counsel appeared with full authority to act on his behalf to set at rest the contempt proceedings. He said he had just expressed his ignorance about the apology tendered with the ECP on Jan 17 when he was rushing to attend Panama Papers case proceedings before the Supreme Court.

ECP to announce decision on notice tomorrow

“This is the substance of the impugned comments of the answering respondent, which has been maliciously distorted by the petitioner.

“In view of the matter it is respectfully submitted that show-cause notice issued to the petitioner dated 24.08.2017 may kindly be withdrawn and proceedings arising out of case No……may kindly be withdrawn,” Mr Khan said in his reply submitted through his counsel Babar Awan.

While Mr Khan seeks withdrawal of contempt notice against him, another contempt petition has been filed with the ECP by Akbar S. Babar over what he called contemptuous remarks uttered against the commission by Mr Khan in his press talk on Sept 20.

The ECP adjourned the case till Wednesday (tomorrow) asking the PTI to submit a reply to the fresh contempt plea against Mr Khan. The ECP will announce its decision on the contempt notice the same day.

Imran Khan’s reply was filed on the orders of a larger bench of the Islamabad High Court which, after hearing his writ petition on Sept 20 questioning the jurisdiction of the ECP to proceed in the contempt case, had ordered him to ‘affirmatively’ file a reply by Tuesday.

On Monday, Mr Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan made arguments about the history of the contempt proceedings. He said Imran Khan owned PTI junior lawyer’s unconditional apology before the ECP which should have ended the matter. He read the ECP orders whereby the PTI was repeatedly asked to produce financial records in the foreign funding case that became the basis of the contempt case.

The petitioner and Akbar S. Babar’s counsel Syed Ahmed Hasan argued that Imran Khan had successively failed to comply with the orders of the ECP and instead repeatedly used extremely contemptuous language against the ECP. Ahmed Hasan read a fresh application about Imran Khan’s most recent contemptuous statement against the ECP made on Sept 20, the day his counsel was busy arguing before the Islamabad High Court about his client’s respect for the ECP. He said the PTI junior lawyer’s apology was publicly disowned by Imran Khan which led to the contempt application. Furthermore, he said, the PTI junior lawyer’s apology could not be accepted as that of Imran Khan’s since the lawyer had so far not filed his accreditation papers before the ECP.

The CEC reserved orders which were announced a short while later whereby the contempt case was adjourned until Sept 27 for orders on Mr Khan’s reply and review of his reply to the fresh application filed by the petitioner highlighting yet another contemptuous statement of Mr Khan against the ECP.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2017