The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday rejected a reference filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan against MNA Ayesha Gulalai seeking to deseat the lawmaker for "violation of party rules".
Khan in his reference claimed that Gulalai had violated party laws and should be deseated as she had abstained from voting for the PTI's chosen candidate, Sheikh Rasheed, for the office of prime minister after the ouster of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif on July 28.
The PTI's lawyer, during an earlier hearing, said that Gulalai had violated party laws by abstaining from the vote although she was present at a meeting in which the party had decided to field Rasheed as its candidate for the post of PM, and Khan had notified all party members to support the Awami Muslim League chief.
Gulalai, however, claimed that she had not participated in the vote due to an illness, but the PTI's lawyer presented a record of television talk shows on which she had appeared at the time of the session to speak about her decision to leave the PTI.
The ECP in its short order today announced the decision in favour of Gulalai by a 3-2 majority of the five-member bench headed by the Chief Election Commissioner hearing the reference.
The members of Balochistan and Punjab dissented with the majority opinion, whereas the CEC, and the members of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa maintained that there was no violation of party rules on Gulalai's part.
Subsequently, Gulalai will remain a member of the National Assembly.
Khan's reference against Gulalai followed a flurry of scathing allegations levelled against the PTI chief and other top party leaders by the lawmaker on Aug 1, when she announced her exit from the party.
Gulalai made the announcement moments before the election of a new prime minister, citing "ill-treatment" of women in the party as the reason behind her decision. She had claimed that she had communicated her grievances to the party leadership but no action had been taken.
'Imran has always spread anarchy'
Gulalai, addressing a press conference after the ECP's decision was announced, accused Khan of "always spreading anarchy and chaos".
"You keep telling everyone to protest everything and have started a culture of levelling allegations and counter-allegations and insults. This is the kind of Pakistan you are building," she said, addressing the PTI chairman.
The MNA said Khan is happy as long as he is given a free hand by institutions, "but if an institutions tells me to present myself, then I threaten to bring people out onto the streets," she said, explaining Khan's alleged thought process.
"This anarchist behaviour is not acceptable to respectable individuals," she said. "If you come out onto the streets this time and bring people with you in order to close institutions, then Pakistan's people will also come out onto the streets and I will join them. We will hold a rally for respecting institutions."
"In four years [since the last election] ... the government could not pay attention [to various issues] because Niazi kept spreading anarchy. And then you [Khan] say that the economy has been performing poorly," she said.
"Every other day, you threaten to remove this person or that," she added.
"The voters in NA-4 have boycotted the upcoming by-poll and erected black flags in protest," she continued. "They say 'We voted for Niazi but he did not respect our daughters and sisters'."
"You have put them off the democratic process of election," she said. "You are only trying to impose your will on the state."
Prior to her resignation, Gulalai, who is a former PPP member, had been a staunch and vocal supporter of the PTI and Imran Khan, often featuring in prime time talkshows to defend party policies.
PTI not happy with ECP decision
"Ayesha Gulalai did not vote in the elections for the prime minister in the National Assembly despite being told that the party would vote for Sheikh Rasheed," PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said while speaking to the press shortly after the ECP rejected the reference against Gulalai.
"She has made allegations against the PTI chief," Chaudhry added, maintaining that Gulalai had disassociated herself from the party. "How can she be a member of the NA on PTI's ticket?"
"The party should be able to trust her. PTI is not happy with the ECP's decision," Chaudhry said.
"Her occupation of this seat violates the rights of those women in the party who are involved in a political struggle."