IHC stops ECP from holding by-poll on seat vacated after Imran’s disqualification

Published October 31, 2022
Imran Khan’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar speaks to the media outside the Islamabad High Court on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
Imran Khan’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar speaks to the media outside the Islamabad High Court on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday barred the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from holding a by-election for NA-95 (Mianwali) which had fallen vacant after PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s disqualification in the Toshakhana reference.

The court issued the directives while hearing Imran’s plea against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to disqualify him. Days after disqualifying Imran under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution, the ECP had on Oct 24 de-notified Imran as MNA from NA-95 with “immediate effect”.

The PTI chief had filed a plea with the IHC, challenging the ECP’s decision to disqualify him over what the electoral watchdog cited as his failure to properly account for monetary proceeds from the sale of Toshakhana gifts while he was the prime minister.

The plea urged the court to declare the ECP’s order “misconceived” and set it aside.

During today’s hearing, Imran’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar pointed out that his client had been de-notified by the ECP from NA-95 (Mianwali).

Justice Aamer Farooq, who presided over the hearing, asked whether the National Assembly speaker had submitted the reference against Imran. Imran’s counsel replied in the affirmative, adding that the ECP had disqualified the former premier under Article 63(1)(p).

Justice Aamer Farooq questioned whether the National Assembly speaker could disqualify a lawmaker after the latter has been “sentenced”. He also asked if the NA speaker had drafted the reference himself or someone had submitted a request.

He noted that the reference stated that Imran was no longer sadiq and ameen (honest and righteous).

Barrister Zafar said that according to the ECP, the commission could disqualify anyone under the Elections Act.

During the hearing the court also asked whether each lawmaker submitted statements of assets annually.

The PTI counsel replied that each and every lawmaker had to submit their asset statements. He also argued that there was no need to include those assets which had been sold.

“Your assembly membership gets suspended if you do not submit the statements,” Barrister Zafar told the court.

After hearing the arguments, the court issued notices to the respondents and adjourned the hearing till Nov 10. The court also accepted miscellaneous applications filed by Imran seeking to incorporate additional documents to the case record.

Speaking to media after the hearing, Barrister Zafar said the ECP’s decision had been suspended in a way as it could not be implemented.

He insisted that the ECP’s verdict was legally and constitutionally “incorrect”. “The ECP can make a decision after a trial but not without it.”

Imran’s disqualification

The ECP had concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statement and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts — a ruling that prompted widespread protests by the PTI.

In his petition, Imran also sought a court declaration stating that the ECP lacked the jurisdiction to decide “any questions of ‘corrupt practices and disqualification’” under the Election Act and Election Rules, 2017.

The Tosha­khana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.

According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.

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