• Niazullah made election commissioner
• Gohar submits nomination papers for chairman; party keeps names of other candidates under wraps
• Spokesperson says ‘conspiracies’ to keep PTI out of polls will fail

ISLAMABAD: The Pakis­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Friday announced it had put the finishing touches on preparations for intra-party elections being held today (Satur­day) on the directives of Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan.

Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, who was nominated by Imran Khan for the top slot a couple of days ago, submitted his nomination papers for the office of the party’s chairman.

A PTI spokesman, however, did not officially prov­ide any details of the arrangements for the polling, names of other candidates as well as the place where the members would cast their votes.

He said Mr Gohar’s nomination papers were received by Returning Officer Sardar Masroof Khan at the party’s Central Secretariat in Islamabad.

Party’s senior central lea­der Ahmed Owais is the proposer in the nomination pap­ers filed by Barrister Gohar while information secretary Raoof Hasan has seconded him.

Talking to Dawn, PTI Ch­ief Election Commissi­oner Niazullah Niazi said elections were being held under the party’s rules 2020, which were revised in 2022, stating that party members would cast their votes to the whole panel.

He said he had nominated five returning officers (ROs) who had received nominat­ion papers till 3pm on Friday. According to Mr Niazi, Sardar Masroof is RO at the federal level whereas Mirza Asim Baig has been nominated as the RO for Punjab, Zahid Bashir Dar for Sindh, Ansar Mehmood Kiani for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Amna Ali for Balochistan.

In reply to a question, Mr Niazi failed to provide exact number of candidates and voters, saying “thousands of the party members” were eligible to poll their votes.

He did not even share the names of candidates for other offices, including secretary general and vice-presidents and claimed that no one had filed objections to any of the nomination papers.

How it began?

The ECP had on Nov 23 annu­lled the PTI’s intra-party polls held in June last year, terming them “highly objectionable”.

The commission gave the former ruling party 20 days to hold afresh election, if it did not want to lose its electoral symbol — cricket bat.

“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),” reads the ECP order.

The order came at a time when general elections are about two months away and political parties are ratcheting up their poll campaigns across the country.

The PTI, however, has complained about an uneven playing field and termed the ECP’s ruling an attempt to keep Imran Khan and his party away from polls.

Rift in ranks?

The decision to nominate Barrister Gohar, a newcomer, for the slot of chairman has reportedly caused a rift within the party.

According to an insider, in nominating Mr Gohar loyalists like Ali Mohammad Khan, Senator Humayun Mohmand and Advocate Hamid Khan have been ignored.

A PTI leader told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the decision to appoint Mr Gohar, who is an associate of PPP leader Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, was not a wise move due to his proximity to the PPP stalwart.

But in a statement on Friday, a PTI spokesperson said the party’s decision to hold intra-party elections on the ECP’s directives was a clear sign of the party’s unshakable commitment to democracy and unwavering belief in the rule of law.

The statement said that PTI had also held intra-party elections last year according to the law. However, he added, in order to set a great example of respect for law, the party decided to hold the intra-party elections again despite the “illegal decision” of the electoral watchdog, declaring the last year’s polls null and void.

‘Family-limited’ politics

The spokesman said that the PTI chairman had buried the traditional hered­itary and “family-limited” politics and set a great example of democracy by nominating “a hard-working, loyal and capable worker of the party for the slot of the party chairman”.

He pointed out that the elements, who were hell-bent on keeping the PTI out of politics and electoral process “through conspiracy and coercions”, had once again unleashed their touts and agents into the field to sabotage the party’s intra-party elections. However, he made it clear that like before, these conspiracies were doomed to fail and PTI would proceed towards its destination while staying within the purview of the Constitution, law and democratic values.

Malik Asad also contributed to the report

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2023

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