ISLAMABAD: While the Election Commission of Pakis­tan (ECP) on Tuesday reserved its decision on a petition seeking the “removal of Imran Khan as PTI’s chairman”, one of the party’s estranged founding members also challenged the conduct of recent intra-party elections, alleging it was “rigged and fraudulent”.

Barrister Gohar Ali Khan was elected as the new party chairman after being nominated by Imran Khan for the intra-party election, conducted on Dec 2 on an ECP directive.

In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, estranged PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar said that after the commission directed the party to hold the polls, the PTI core committee issued a press release saying preparations were complete and announced Niazullah Niazi as the PTI CEC, Dawn.com reported.

Various other petitions were also submitted to the ECP along similar lines as Mr Babar’s with the mutual demands of declaring the intra-party election without effect and orders for the exercise to be carried out anew.

Commission to announce verdict today in ‘contempt of CEC’ cases against Imran, Fawad

Citing flaws in the process, the PTI founding member said the press release did not mention any other names of PTI’s federal election commission or share other details of the polls such as the election rules, regulations, detailed schedule of elections, nomination timeline and various other aspects. He added that the press release also did not specify the vote-cou­nting process or the anno­u­n­cement of election results, fur­ther saying that no such information was available on the PTI website until the day of polling.

Mr Babar said he visited the PTI Central Secretariat in Isla­m­abad with other party members on Dec 1 afternoon, but the party representative present at the site had “expressed his helplessness in sharing the required information (nomination papers, voter lists and rules and regulations of the elections) as none existed”.

Commenting on the day of election, Mr Babar said: “A crowd of a few scores of people, without any prior authentication regarding their status in the party, were assembled in an undisclosed location in Peshawar who shouted: ‘We accept, we accept’. The charade was filmed and shown on national television. The same day before noon, the election results were announced to the media. All candidates were elected unopposed.”

He said, “In the absence of basic rules of elections […] the entire intra-party election was a mere eyewash and a vain attempt to hoodwink the ECP”.

Talking to the media in Islamabad outside the ECP, Mr Babar claimed many other PTI workers, founding members and leaders were with him who had also submitted separate petitions against the intra-party polls to “save the bat”.

Mr Babar said along with his supporters he wanted to play the role of a “bridge” between the PTI and ECP with the stance that the party be given “another chance” to hold transparent polls instead of being denied its election symbol.

Ruling reserved

Separately, the ECP reserved judgement on a petition seeking the removal of PTI leader Imran Khan as the party chairman. Interestingly, Mr Khan is not the chairman of the party anymore after Gohar Khan was elected to the post. A five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja heard the case, filed by one Khalid Mehmood advocate a few weeks ago.

PTI and Mr Khan’s lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said the case must end now after the record of intra-party elections had been submitted to the commission.

“Now this case should end, legally this matter has ended because the new chairman of the party has assumed office.”

He also referred to a petition being filed by Mr Babar, saying that the bench could continue the case through it.

The CEC said that the lawyer was giving another opportunity to the petitioner to file a petition against the new chairman.

The petitioner argued that no one had accepted the PTI’s intra-party elections, adding that Mr Babar also did not accept the polls. He urged the bench to write in the order that “Imran Khan is convicted and he cannot hold any post in the party”.

Later, the commission reserved the verdict. The ECP had sought an explanation from Mr Khan regarding his continuation as the party chief even after his disqualification in the Toshakhana case.

In the light of the Toshakhana case verdict, the commission had initiated proceedings to remove Mr Khan from the post of chairman PTI.

According to the cause list, the ECP will announce its order on December 6 (today) regarding the jail trial of Mr Khan in case of the contempt of ECP and its chief.

Iftikhar A. Khan in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2023

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