ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Annoyed by their persistent absence, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday issued bailable arrest warrants for PTI Chairman Imran Khan and senior party leader Fawad Chaudhry in a case pertaining to contempt of the ECP and chief election commissioner (CEC).

Separately, Lahore police registered another case against senior PTI leaders for delivering incendiary speeches and accusing the state of hatching conspiracy to assassinate Imran Khan.

A four-member ECP bench headed by member from Sindh Nisar Durrani noted that the former prime minister was not appearing before the electoral watchdog despite being summoned persistently, which amounts to insulting the commission.

The bench directed the Islamabad police chief to arrest Mr Khan and Fawad Chaudhry and produce them before it the on March 14.

Dismisses plea seeking Imran’s removal as party chairman; police book party leaders in another case

The ECP had issued show-cause notices to the PTI chief and party leaders Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry for using intemperate language against the commission and its head last year. While Mr Umar appeared before the ECP bench for the first time last week, the two others never turned up.

The PTI chief in his objections said the notice as well as show-cause notice had also been challenged by him in the Lahore High Court. He said the orders of the high court shall have a blanket effect on the legality of these proceedings. “Neither the notice nor the show-cause notice have been issued by the rightful authority and the secretary of ECP or the DG of Law cannot assume authority to issue any notice or show-cause notice without express provision of law authorising them,” Mr Khan said.

The response filed by Asad Umar also contained similar arguments.

Plea dismissed

Also on Tuesday, the ECP dismissed a plea seeking removal of Imran Khan as the chairman of PTI following his disqualification in Toshakhana case, after the petitioner Afaq Ahmad misbehaved with the bench.

When Barrister Gohar, Mr Khan’s lawyer, argued that the Lahore High Court had barred the commission from issuing any verdict in the case, CEC Sikander Sultan Raja said the high court had barred the electoral watchdog from issuing the verdict and not discontinuing the hearing.

Afaq Ahmed said the ECP had been serving “false notices” on him, adding that the notices issued to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar were being sent to him. “The notices could not reach me on time due to the negligence of the deputy director of the law department,” he added.

The CEC rebuked him, saying he should not point finger at anyone, lower his voice and talk about the relevant case.

The petitioner asked who was responsible for serving a notice after the case had been taken up for hearing. The CEC remarked what he (petitioner) meant by that to which the latter stated he would not say what Mr Raja wanted to listen to.

Upon this, the CEC ordered police to send Mr Ahmad out of the courtroom. Later, the ECP dismissed the plea.

Another case against PTI leaders

Meanwhile, Lahore police registered another case against senior PTI leaders, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Fawad Chaudhry, along with 50 party activists on charges of delivering speeches inciting the public against the government and accusing the state of hatching a plot to assassinate former PM Imran Khan.

The case was registered a day after Lahore police lodged an FIR against the PTI chairman, his chief of staff Shibli Faraz and 150 other party workers for harassing the Islamabad police during a raid on Zaman Park residence of the former prime minister.

This time, police applied seven sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in the FIR, which was registered on the complaint of Sub-Inspector Mohammad Waseem of the Race Course police station.

The police accused Mr Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry and the 50 PTI activists of provoking the public that may cause injury, death to any person or damage to public property. They blocked roads, delivered hate speeches and hurled threats while holding a press conference outside the PTI chief’s Zaman Park residence, the police alleged in the FIR.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2023

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