ISLAMABAD: The ruling and main opposition parties on Friday interpreted in their own way the decision against former prime minister Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case, with the former hailing it as a “five-year disqualification”, and the latter rejecting the verdict on the basis that it would be struck down by the high court.

Saying the ECP “has done justice in [the] Toshakhana reference”, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged PTI leaders and workers not to take law into their own hands.

“The myth of [Imran Khan’s] honesty and sagacity has been broken,” he tweeted, adding that the nation had borne witness to how the PM’s office was misused for personal gain.

Calling for Mr Khan’s arrest and the recovery of “looted money” from him, PML-N Vice President Mar­yam Nawaz said that “Pakis­tan’s first certified liar and thief” had been disqualified with irrefutable evidence.

Shehbaz laments how PM office was used for personal gain; Asad Umar says they expected such a verdict

Members of the ruling Pakistan Democratic Move­ment (PDM) coalition also met soon after the ECP announced its decision, and in a subsequent presser, Maulana Fazlur Rehman hailed the verdict, obs­erving that following Imran Khan’s disqualification, “The nation has gotten rid of the fitna (troublemaker).”

PPP leader and foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, speaking at an event in Karachi, saw the decision against Mr Khan as “just the beginning”, predicting that “more such decisions” against the ex-PM were yet to come.

In the words of Awami National Party (ANP) Pre­si­dent Asfandyar Wali Khan, the ECP verdict was within the ambit of the commissi­on’s constitutional jurisdiction.

PTI reaction

However, Mr Khan’s own party was understandably upset by the ruling, saying that the decision against Mr Khan was beyond the ECP’s jurisdiction and proved its “lopsidedness”.

The party also announ­ced its intention to file an appeal against the decision before the Islamabad High Court once a copy of the detailed decision was made available.

In PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s opinion, the ECP verdict “had no value”. He said that Imran Khan would continue to hold the office of party chairman since the commission had no jurisdiction to rule on such matters.

“We are going to challenge this decision in the Supreme Court,” he added.

The party’s Central Secretary General Asad Umar also reacted sharply to the decision, saying that the verdict would not even stand for a few hours.

“We expected this verdict. Our lawyers are prepared, the petition is ready and the decision will be challenged in the high court,” he said.

Speaking to the media outside ECP offices, Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said: “This is a wrong decision, ECP cannot de-seat Imran Khan… The ECP did exactly what we expected of them.”

“Today is the beginning of the revolution. No one can disqualify Imran Khan. Only the public can do that,” he vowed.

Shafqat Mahmood flayed the verdict, calling it “a black day for Pakistan”.

PTI legal expert Babar Awan opined that Imran Khan had not been disqualified, rather those had announced the verdict were the incompetent ones.

His view was echoed by former finance minister Shaukat Tarin, who maintained that the ECP was not a court of law. “He [Imran] has broken no rules and people know it. This will only make him more popular and will force PTI to launch the long match. Minus one is not acceptable to the people of Pakistan,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, on a question about Mr Khan’s disqualification and if it could impact US-Pakistan relations, a US State Department spokesperson said Washington did not have a position on one political candidate or party versus another.

“We support the peaceful upholding of democratic, constitutional, and legal principles, including letting the legal process run its course. We support principles of rule of law and equal justice under the law,” the spokesperson said.

Published in Dawn, October 22th, 2022

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