The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday ordered the PTI to hold intra-party elections within 20 days to retain bat as its poll symbol.

In August, the commission had given a final warning to the PTI to hold the polls or it could be declared ineligible to obtain an election symbol.

It had stated that the elections were due on June 13, 2021 under the party’s constitution but a year’s extension had been granted.

Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, representing the PTI, had said the party elections were held before an amendment in its constitution. However, the CEC claimed that the PTI amended its constitution on June 8, 2022 and conducted intra-party polls on June 10, 2022. Khan had also said the amendment in the party constitution was later withdrawn.

The polls organising authority had said it issued a final notice to the PTI in May 2022 to ensure the conduct of intra-party elections “on or before June 13, 2022 (extended date), with the observation that no further extension shall be allowed”.

Subsequently, the PTI submitted a copy of the amended party’s constitution that was deemed “insufficient” by the electoral body.

In October, the ECP had reserved its verdict on the maintainability of a petition by the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party seeking to take away PTI’s ‘bat’ electoral symbol.

Days later, the PTI formally appealed to the electoral body to immediately issue a detailed written order regarding the intra-party elections and poll symbol allocation. The PTI had claimed that the ECP had accepted there had been a misunderstanding and that the elections were held on June 9, 2022.

A four-member commission, headed by Nisar Ahmed Durrani and including Shah Mohammad Jatoi, Babar Hassan Bharwana, and Justice (rtd) Ikramullah Khan, had presided over the proceedings of the case.

Today, announcing its reserved verdict on the matter, the ECP directed the PTI to hold the intra-party elections and submit a report to the commission within seven days of it.

The written verdict stated: “We are confirmed in our views that the respondent party failed to hold, transparent just and fair intra-party election in accordance with its prevailing constitution 2019 allegedly held on 10-06-2022, which is highly disputed/objectionable, which could not be accepted at all.”

The order said that instead of invoking section 215(5) (eligibility of party to obtain election symbol) of the Elections Act 2017, the ECP was taking a “lenient view” by directing it to hold the intra-party polls “strictly in accordance with the prevailing party constitution, within 20 days positively”.

“Its result along with all the required documents, including Form 65, shall be submitted thereafter the election within seven days before the commission,” it added.

The verdict then warned that in case of failure to hold the polls, the PTI would “suffer the penal consequences of Section 215(5) of the Elections Act 2017 accordingly and would be ineligible to obtain an election symbol for election to Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), etc”.

The ECP highlighted that the documents provided by the chief election commissioner had “made the alleged intra-party election highly objectionable [and] dubious”.

It added there was a “glaring, un-explained contradiction, in regard to holding of intra-party election, as to whether the same was held” on June 8, 2022 or June 9 or June 10 that year.

Noting that after the polls were held, the party was supposed to submit a “certificate signed by the office bearers authorised by the party head”, the ECP said “no such authentic attested copy of document related to amendment in the 2019 constitution and of PTI intra-party election allegedly held on June 6, 2022 was provided till Aug 18, 2022”.

The verdict stated that Form-65 was submitted before the ECP on Aug 18, 2022, which was “much after the prescribed period” and cast “serious doubts” over holding of the intra-party elections on June 8, 2022.

PTI counsel ‘upset’ at verdict

Barrister Khan said he was “extremely upset” by today’s verdict, adding that the requirements of justice were not met.

Speaking to the media outside the ECP office in Islamabad today, he claimed the verdict had been delayed for a “special purpose”.

The lawyer said the ECP’s notice had not stated that the intra-party elections were not according to the PTI’s constitution. Instead, Khan asserted, the notice was about the polls’ documentation being incomplete.

Khan added that the polls were held correctly and in an open manner, along with complete documentation. He said he would challenge the order before the relevant forums.

The lawyer expressed “satisfaction” that according to today’s verdict, the bat was “our (PTI’s) symbol, it still is and it will remain on the ballot paper”.

PTI plea

Submitted through Barrister Ali Zafar, the PTI had said the ECP had accepted that on March 28 some misunderstanding had led to the passing of the order as to whether the party’s August 2022 constitution had been withdrawn or the intra-party election.

It said that after a hearing and submission of affidavits, the ECP had accepted that only the constitution of August 2022 had been withdrawn.

It further said the intra-party elections of PTI were duly held on June 9, 2022, in pursuance of the party’s 2019 constitution, amended up to June 8, 2022.

This was why when the matter came up for a final hearing on Aug 30 this year, “the ECP accepted PTI’s submissions and orally anno­unced its decision that the elections were duly held on June 9, 2022, and, therefore, the matter stood resolved”, the application had said.

“This was also widely reported in the media. The matter hence stood finally concluded on Aug 30, 2023, and it was only observed that a detailed order will be issued soon in this regard,” it had stated.

It had noted that after the announcement of the oral order, more than 41 days have passed but no order has been provided.

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