The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the contempt of court case against him for "repeatedly failing to appear for the hearing and for failing to send a written apology to the ECP for his absence in court".
The ECP has ordered that the PTI chairman be arrested and brought to the next hearing of the case filed by PTI dissident and one of the party's founding members, Akbar S. Babar, on October 26.
According to PTI Spokesperson Naeemul Haq, the party is set to challenge the warrants in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
In today's hearing — headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza — the ECP suspended proceedings as soon as they began and the members reconvened in the chambers.
During the meeting, the ECP decided to issue non-bailable warrants for Khan.
Earlier on September 14, the ECP had issued bailable arrest warrants for Imran Khan following his failure to show up for the contempt of court proceeding, which were later suspended by the IHC on the PTI's petition.
"A new warrant is issued in the same case where a [bailable] warrant was already suspended. We will also look into whether this is contempt of the IHC's full bench or not, and then [the party] we will challenge it," said PTI member and lawyer Babar Awan.
In August, the ECP had issued a second show-cause notice to Imran Khan after he failed to reply to the earlier notice regarding the contempt of court proceedings against him.
Imran Khan had initially challenged maintainability of the contempt petition and raised objections over ECP’s jurisdiction to initiate contempt proceedings against him; the commission, however, declared on August 10 that it had the legal right to hear the contempt case.
It had then issued a formal show-cause notice to the PTI chairman, asking him to submit a reply by Aug 23.
PTI chief's counsel Babar Awan had then appeared before the five-member ECP bench and pleaded that they wanted to challenge the ECP’s judgement regarding the maintainability of the contempt petition and hence, should be granted some time to do so.
Imran Khan had accused the ECP of being biased in the foreign funding case following which his counsel had tendered an apology with the commission. However, the PTI chairman in a TV interview later said that his counsel had tendered an apology in his personal capacity and that he had not apologised.