ISLAMABAD: Annoyed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s failure to appear before it in a contempt case, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday once again sought his physical appearance on October 11, the date of the next hearing, after his counsel argued that the issue was a lack of trust in the commission.

The ECP had, on August 19, issued notices to former prime minister Imran Khan and PTI leaders Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry. All three leaders were asked to appear before the ECP in person on Sept 27 after written replies from two of them had been rejected as ‘unsatisfactory’.

While appearing before a four-member bench of the ECP, headed by Sindh member Nisar Durrani, PTI counsel Faisal Farid argued that the Lahore High Court (Rawalpindi bench) had suspended the show-cause notices issued by the commission. “It would be better to wait until the high court’s decision,” he added.

When the counsel expla­ined that Mr Khan respec­ted all constitutional institutions, including the ECP, the commission’s member from KP told him that his client had served as prime minister and respecting state organs was his duty.

However, Mr Farid said there was the issue of a lack of trust in the ECP and sought an adjournment. He pointed out that LHC would take up the matter on September 29. The ECP then adjourned the hearing of the case to October 11 and directed the three PTI leaders to appear before it in person.

ECP rejects allegations

Also, the ECP strongly rejected “irresponsible and baseless allegations” levelled by a “political figure”, saying the ECP would keep taking decisions as per the law and the Constitution to fulfil its lawful obligations.

The statement came a day after former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan targeted Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, demanding his resignation following the surfacing of audio leaks allegedly featuring conversations between key figures in the coalition government.

Mr Khan said the audio leaks had made it apparent that CEC Raja was a “servant of the Sharif household”. In the audio leaks, “Nawaz is telling him [CEC] who should be disqualified and when to hold elections,” the former premier said.

Imran can’t escape punishment: Sherry

In a related development, Minister for Climate Change Senator Sherry Rehman on Tuesday slammed PTI Chairman Imran Khan for his unabated criticism against the ECP and its chief.

Talking to reporters at Parliament House, she said the PTI chief could not evade the logical conclusion of Toshakhana disqualification reference by blaming the constitutional institutions. She also responded to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman’s statement, through a series of tweets.

Ms Rehman said: “The PTI is persistently targeting the Election Commission of Pakistan after the Toshakhana disqualification reference. PTI leaders including Imran Khan continued to raise questions on the jurisdiction of the constitutional institution.”

She also criticised Mr Khan for his claim over advance information on audio leaks. She alleged the PTI leadership was trying to avoid punishment by making the institution controversial. “Imran Khan is clearly guilty in Toshakhana disqualification case. If other political leaders continue to suffer punishment in similar cases, is Imran Khan above the law and institutions?” the minister questioned.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2022

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