ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in a ruling on Thursday annulled the intra-party polls of the PTI held in June last year, giving the former ruling party 20 days to go for a fresh election if it did not want to lose its electoral symbol — bat.

The order of the ECP comes at a time when general elections are about two months away and political parties are ratcheting up their election campaigns across the country. The PTI, however, has complained of an uneven playing field and also termed the ECP ruling an attempt to keep Imran Khan and his party away from polls.

In a 12-page order announced in the open court, a four-member bench of the election watchdog said, “We are confirmed in our views, that the respondent party [PTI] failed to hold transparent, just and fair intra-party election in accordance with its prevailing Constitution 2019.”

According to the ECP, the PTI elections held on June 10, 2022, were “highly objectionable/disputed”, which could not be accepted at all. “…therefore, it is held that the respondent party has failed to hold its intra-party election within the extended period of one year…instead of taking the final step to invoke the provision of Section 215(5) of the Elections Act, 2017, a lenient view is taken with direction…to hold its intra-party election strictly in accordance with the prevailing party constitution, within 20 days…”

Commission voids intra-party polls after 17 months; party terms decision ‘part of conspiracy’ to keep Imran out of elections

The order also asked the PTI to submit the result along with all the required documents, including the form-65, within seven days to the commission. “In case, the respondent party failed to…hold its intra-party election within the prescribed 20 days which will run from today [Thursday], the date on which this order is announced, in such eventuality the respondent will suffer the penal consequences of Section 215(5) of Elections Act, 2017 accordingly and would be ineligible to obtain an election symbol for election to Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).”

The order said that not only the national council but all other organisations formed under the party constitution had completed their tenure on June 12, 2021. It said that the national council elected or nominated in 2017 had already completed its full tenure on June 13, 2021, and thereafter neither the said tenure of the organisation was extended nor any fresh organisation with the name of National Council was constituted in accordance with the provision of Section 208(3) of the Elections Act 2017.

It also pointed out that no notification was ever issued for the extension of the tenure of any organisation of the PTl. The ECP said the chief organiser had no power to form any wing of the PTI, including the formation of various bodies, under the party constitution.

According to the ruling, to ascertain that intra-party election had been conducted and held in a transparent manner in accordance with the elections act and the PTI constitution, it was required to submit a copy of the amended constitution to the Election Commission of Pakistan, duly attested and signed by an authorised person within seven days, but no such authentic printed and signed documents were submitted to the commission.

The ECP said under the elections act, a political party within seven days of intra-party polls shall submit a certificate signed by the office-bearers authorised by the party head to the commission to the effect that the election was held in accordance with the constitution of the political party and Elections Act 2017.

“...the said Form-65 was submitted before the commission, on Aug 18, 2022, much after the prescribed period provided thereunder Section 209 of Elections Act 2017 and Rule 158 of the Elections Act, 2017, which itself casts serious doubts over holding of intra-party election on the alleged dated i.e. 10-6-2023,” it read.

‘Minus-Imran formula’

Commenting on the ECP’s decision, the PTI said it was expected in view of the continued bias of the commission against the party. A spokesman for the party in a statement said the order had once again exposed the conspiracy to keep PTI, particularly its chairman Imran Khan out of elections.

He said the decision would be resisted through constitutional, legal, and political moves. He said the ECP, despite repeated applications, deliberately delayed the matter to achieve specific desired objectives. He said the PTI during two meetings with the ECP chief had been assured of protection of its constitutional rights, but the decision was contrary to the commitments. He said the dream of certain elements to minus Imran Khan or depriving the PTI of its election symbol will never materialise.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2023

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