The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday hinted at conducting the trial of former prime minister Imran Khan in a contempt case at Adiala Jail, where he is incarcerated, citing a report submitted by the interior ministry.
The development follows Imran’s hearings in the Toshakhana, cipher, and Al-Qadir Trust cases already being conducted at jail premises due to security concerns.
The ECP had initiated contempt proceedings against the PTI chief, former party leader Asad Umar and former information minister Fawad Chaudhry last year for allegedly using “intemperate” language against the chief election commissioner and the electoral watchdog.
However, instead of appearing before the ECP, the three had challenged the ECP notices and contempt proceedings in various high courts on the grounds that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017, which is the statutory provision regarding the commission’s power to punish for contempt, was against the Constitution. The PTI leaders had also sought from the high courts a declaratory relief from the charges.
But in January, the Supreme Court allowed the ECP to continue proceedings against Imran, Chaudhry and Umar, and on June 21, the ECP decided to frame charges against the trio, which is yet to be done.
During today’s hearing, ECP member from Sindh Nasir Durrani told Imran’s counsel Shoaib Shaheen that the interior ministry had submitted a report that said that Imran could not be presented and proposed that the commission send a team to jail to indict him.
The ECP is yet to make a final call on the report of the ministry, which was forwarded to the commission and other relevant ministries under the standard operating procedure.
At the outset, Shaheen conveyed that the order from the last hearing had not been provided to him.
Durrani responded by saying, “The interior ministry submitted a report, highlighting that Imran could not be presented due to the current circumstances. It is said that a jail trial can be conducted.”
Shaheen urged the commission to share the report “if it is a routine report.”
Durrani assured him of providing a copy of the report and mentioned that it suggested the commission visit the jail to indict Imran. The case has been ongoing for around one-and-a-half years, he added.
At this, Imran’s lawyer expressed concern, stating that the jail trial of a leader of a top political party sent the wrong message.
Meanwhile, ECP member from Balochistan, Shah Muhammad Jatoi, stressed that the commission would focus on the law and not the accused.
He cautioned against making statements against the commission, saying, “Please do not make such statements before the commission; you were previously making statements against the same commission.”
Separately, Asad Umar also made an appearance before the ECP in the same case. The electoral watchdog questioned Umar about his repeated failure to appear before the commission.
“I have appeared before the ECP the most,” Umar responded, adding that he had also quit politics. In response, one of the ECP members stated, “You can continue politics.”
“I am grateful to you, but I’ve quit politics,” the former PTI leader reiterated. Umar then submitted his written response to the ECP.
Following the arguments, the commission adjourned the hearing until December 6.
Talking to Dawn.com after the hearing, Shaheen stated that he had urged the ECP to provide one or more reports the commission had received regarding a jail trial of the contempt case.
He highlighted that the ECP had specific mandated roles and could not operate in the same manner as a court.
Shaheen said he had sought copies of the interior ministry’s report to build his argument against the proposal for a jail trial for the former premier.