ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has reserved judgements on the maintainability of pleas seeking the removal of Imran Khan as PTI’s head and opposing the allocation of ‘bat’ as the party symbol for upcoming polls.

A five-member ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commi­ssioner Sikandar Sultan Raja heard the cases on Tuesday.

The counsel for petitioner Khalid Mehmood Khan argued that the PTI chairman had been convicted in the Toshakhana case and referred to the Supreme Court’s order declaring former prime minister Nawaz Sharif ineligible to hold the office of party president following his conviction in the Panama Papers case.

The ECP member from Sindh, Nisar Ahmad Durrani, asked what the Elections Act says on this issue.

Petitions filed to remove ex-PM as party head, audit accounts for ‘prohibited funding’

The lawyer said that while the Political Parties Act barred convicts from holding party offices, the Elections Act had no such provision.

When the ECP asked about the potential outcome if Mr Khan’s appeal against the conviction was accepted by the high court, the lawyer responded that then Mr Khan would be restored as the party chief.

The chief election commissioner questioned the difference between the PTI chief’s case and Mr Sharif’s case.

The lawyer explained that the latter was disqualified by the Supreme Court, whereas the ruling against the PTI chairman had been issued by the ECP and the trial court.

Subsequently, the ECP decided to reserve its judgement on the petition seeking the removal of Mr Khan from the party chairmanship.

In November last year, the ECP had disqualified Mr Khan as member of the National Assembly over his failure to mention the gifts received from foreign dignitaries and acquired from Toshakhana in his statement of assets and liabilities.

When a trial court on Aug 5 convicted Mr Khan in the same case, the ECP also issued a notification de-seating him as MNA and declaring him disqualified for five years.

Plea to take away bat symbol

Separately, the ECP also reserved judgement on the maintainability of a petition seeking to take away PTI’s ‘bat’ electoral symbol.

The counsel for the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party, Aun Chaudhry, appeared before the bench and insisted that the symbol should not be allocated to the PTI.

When the chief election commissioner said the PTI had been allotted the bat symbol in the past, the counsel said the same symbol should not be allocated to the party again.

The counsel was told that a case concerning the election symbol was already pending before the ECP. The lawyers suggested clubbing both cases.

Prohibited funding

The bench also held a preliminary hearing of a fresh petition alleging that PTI was still receiving prohibited funding.

The petitioner Khalid Mehmood’s counsel claimed the party was still receiving funds from prohibited sources.

When the ECP asked for evidence, the lawyer sought time and said the commission could itself hold an inquiry into the matter. “We cannot hold an inquiry on your whims,” the chief election commissioner said.

The petitioner was then given three weeks to gather evidence.

The commission also took up a petition filed by Azizuddin Kakakhel Advocate, seeking the removal of ‘biased’ members of the federal cabinet and the principal secretary to the prime minister.

The petitioner contended that PM’s secretary Tauqeer Shah was secretary to former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif.

The bench inquired whether he was a retired or serving officer. The petitioner replied that he was given the post after he retired.

The chief election commissioner observed they had held important positions in the past, and their

services may still be needed. “God forbid, if he dies today, will there be no other servant?” the petitioner asked.

“It is not necessary that those in the previous government cannot be impartial,” the CEC said.

After hearing arguments, the bench reserved the verdict on the petition’s maintainability.

The petition specifically mentioned Anwaarul Haq Kakar, Fawad Hasan Fawad, Ahad Cheema and Dr Tauqeer Hussain Shah and sought their removal.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2023

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