ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) appears to have put the intra-party polls case against the ruling Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) in cold storage after the party ignored several deadlines set for the exercise.

ECP sources said that PML-N intra-party polls were due in March 22 last year, but the ECP extended the date on the party’s request and allowed it to hold polls latest by May 14, 2022, and submit the related certificate by May 21, 2022, to meet the legal requirement to be eligible to obtain or retain a poll symbol, something it has failed to do even after passage of over a year.

Under Section 208 of the Elections Act, 2017, all political parties are required to elect office-bearers at the federal, provincial and local levels, wherever applicable, periodically in accordance with party’s constitution.

Section 209(1) of the Elections Act, reads that a political party shall, within seven days from completion of the intra-party elections, submit a certificate signed by an office-bearer authorised by the party head, to the ECP to the effect that the elections were held in accordance with the constitution of the political party and this act to elect the office-bearers at the federal, provincial and local levels, wherever applicable. This section reads, “Eligibility of party to obtain election symbol-(1). Notwith­stan­ding anything contained in any other law, a political party enlisted under this Act shall be eligible to obtain an election symbol for contesting elections for Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament), provincial assemblies or local government on submission of certificates and statements referred to in Sections 202, 206, 209 and 210.”

Three benches of the commission take up seven cases against PTI today

After the issuance of the final show-cause notices to PM Sharif and PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal in November 2022, the ECP had been assured the polls would be held by the year-end.

On Jan 5, another ultimatum was given to the party asking it to hold elections within a week or be ready to lose the election symbol. A week later, the ECP gave another ‘last chance’ to the ruling PML-N to hold long overdue intra-party elections, this time a two-month time. The case was fixed for hearing on March 14 but was mysteriously de-listed from the cause list and no new date for taking up the case had been announced by the commission even after the passage of over nine weeks.

Interestingly, a five-member ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, on the last date of hearing had given two months to PML-N for holding intra-party elections. The party had sought less than three weeks for the exercise.

At the outset of the proceedings, PML-N counsel Ahsan Jahangir informed the commission that the intra-party polls could not take place due to enormous engagements of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who was occupied with a number of responsibilities since becoming the prime minister. The PML-N counsel sought time till Jan 31 to ensure compliance with the commission’s order. Mr Jahangir said that the party would do the needful and requested the commission not to withdraw the symbol of the party.

CEC Raja remarked that a person who was so busy that he could not hold intra-party elections should not be the party president.

Seven cases against PTI

On the other hand, three separate benches of the ECP will take up for hearing seven cases against the PTI and its leadership including the party chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday.

Five cases against PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar for use of intemperate language and contemptuous remarks against the ECP and its head are fixed for hearing before a four-member bench headed by ECP member from Sindh Nisar Ahmed Durrani.

Another contempt case against Fawad Chaudhry for use of intemperate language against the Commission during his media talk in January this year will be taken up for hearing by a five-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.

The ECP has also fixed a case for announcement of order with regard to proceedings under Political Parties Rule 6 for confiscation of prohibited funds against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). The case has been fixed before a three-member bench, led by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2023

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