The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday barred Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan from using unseemly language for his political rivals during election campaigning — a practice that Khan's counsel initially seemed to defend but eventually relented, assuring the election body that his client would abide by its instructions.
On July 12, the eve of Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz's return to Pakistan to surrender themselves to the authorities, Khan had said that whoever goes to receive the Sharifs at the airport "must be a donkey".
As expected, the remarks were not well received among the PML-N cadre and even polarised the next Senate session, where barbs were exchanged between the two parties' members.
The ECP had taken notice of Khan's incendiary choice of words and directed him to appear before the commission today. Khan did not appear before the ECP but his lawyer and PTI leader Babar Awan was at the hearing on his behalf.
When told by the commission that Khan had used an inappropriate word for the workers of a party, Awan defended the word's usage, saying: "Donkey is an ordinary word; even teachers use that word here."
"Teachers have a different standing," a four-member commission, led by the ECP's Sindh member Abdul Ghaffar Soomro, replied. "When major leaders use such language, it doesn't send a good impression [of Pakistan] to the world."
At this, the counsel countered that Khan gets called worse things. "Words such as Taliban Khan and Yahoodi are being used," said Awan, who also played a video of PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq in the court.
"You stick to the notice issued to you; others are also being sent notices," Awan was told.
The ECP then forbade Khan from using unseemly language during his campaigning, to which Awan agreed and also submitted a written statement on behalf of the PTI chairman to abide by the ECP's orders.
The commission adjourned the case's hearing until after the July 25 general elections, during which time the ECP will monitor Khan's speeches to make sure he adheres to the code of conduct.