The Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench on Monday suspended the arrest warrants issued against PTI Chairman Imran Khan and party leader Fawad Chaudhry by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in cases related to its contempt.
On Jan 10, the ECP had issued bailable arrest warrants against Imran, Fawad and PTI Secretary General Asad Umar for failure to appear before the electoral body in a contempt case that was filed in August.
On Saturday, the PTI triad challenged the ECP’s warrants, terming them “illegal, unlawful and devoid of cogent and plausible reasoning”.
Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan presided over the hearing today while Advocate Faisal Chaudhry was present as Imran and Fawad’s counsel.
At the outset of the hearing, the court directed the ECP to continue the hearing over its alleged contempt.
Meanwhile, Advocate Faisal asserted, “We have been present in the proceedings of the election commission and will keep being so [but] the election commission is not a constitutional court [and] does not have the authority to issue arrest warrants.”
The judge responded by saying that the judiciary “makes decisions based on the law and justice. You take relief from the judiciary and then target it as well in front of the media — this is contempt of court.
“If Fawad Chaudhry targets the judiciary again in front of the media, then the court will initiate contempt of court proceedings [against him].”
The LHC judge added that Fawad had recently put the entire blame for corruption on the judiciary during an interview with an international media outlet.
“Right now, the court is providing you relief but tell Fawad Chaudhry to not put the entire responsibility on the courts. Whenever he talks to the media, he holds the courts responsible [for corruption],” the judge said.
It is pertinent to mention that the LHC had suspended only Imran and Fawad’s arrest warrants.
Advocate Faisal separately told Dawn.com that Umar’s arrest warrant would be suspended as well but the official proceedings of his case will be dealt with in Karachi as his case was registered there.
The ECP vs PTI row
The ECP had initiated contempt proceedings against the PTI leaders for allegedly using intemperate language and contemptuous remarks against Chief Election Commission Sikander Sultan Raja and the commission.
The ECP had instructed the party leaders to appear in person or through their counsels before the commission to explain their position.
However, instead of appearing before the ECP, the PTI leaders challenged the ECP notices and contempt proceedings in various high courts on the grounds that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017 — the statutory provision regarding the commission’s power to punish for contempt — was against the Constitution.
The PTI leaders had also sought from the high courts a declaratory relief from the charges.
Later, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court through Advocate Sajeel Sheryar Swati on behalf of the ECP with a request to order consolidation of all six petitions before one high court instead of defending the commission’s stance over the issuance of contempt notices against PTI leaders in different high courts.
On Jan 3, the Supreme Court had allowed the ECP to continue its proceedings against the PTI leaders.
Following the arrest warrants’ issue last week, Chaudhry had said he would file contempt of court proceedings against the electoral watchdog.
“The case was supposed to be heard on Jan 17 but it was fixed today in violation of the rules. This is another biased verdict issued by the ECP members,” he had said.
PTI leaders have repeatedly bashed the commission and Raja over what they claim is their partisanship and frequently term the electoral body as a “subsidiary of the PML-N”.