ISLAMABAD: A four-member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will be going to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail to char­g­e­-­sheet PTI’s founding chairman Imran Khan and former central leader of the party Fawad Chaudhry in contempt cases on Dec 13.

Announcing its verdict on Nov 30, an ECP bench headed by member from Sindh Nisar Ahmed Durrani had referred to the Oct 11 order requiring Mr Khan’s production before it on Oct 24. It says a report was submitted by AIG, OPS, Punjab stating that there were a number of special information reports, which indicate that hostile intelligence agencies along with their local accomplices may carry out subversive activity to create law and order situation and production of Mr Khan would be a high risk.

It also cites a report of the interior ministry which said “…. since for security reasons, trial of other cases against PTI Chairman are being conducted inside Adiala jail, the Ministry of Interior strongly proposes that the Honourable Commission may also conduct the subject proceedings against the said accused person in Adiala jail”.

“Now after having consultation with Ministry of Law and Justice, report is furnished by the Ministry of Interior, wherein it is inter alia stated that the commission may opt to hold contempt proceeding in the Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi,” the order, a copy of which is available with Dawn, reads. The order also mentions that the matter of contempt against the respondent was pending adjudication since August 2022.

ECP fixes petitions assailing PTI’s intra-party polls for hearing tomorrow

It says the previous order sheets reveal that directions for personal appearance of respondent were issued (vide orders dated 12.09.2022, 27.09.2022, 11.10.2022, 26.10.2022, 17.01.2023 and 24.01.2023) but he did not appear. It also transpires that bailable warrants of arrest (vide orders dated 03.01.2023 and 28.02.2023) against the respondent were also issued.

“It is also matter of record that adjournments were also sought on one or the other pretext which were granted. However, respondent, despite availing sufficient latitude did not appear for the reasons best known to him.” Though the respondent was detained in Adiala Jail, exemption of respondent from his personal appearance was also granted in August before his detention, the ECP mentioned.

The commission had initiated contempt proceedings against Imran Khan, former party leader Asad Umar and former minister Fawad Chaudhry last year for allegedly using “intemperate” language against the chief election commissioner and the electoral watchdog.

At the previous hearing, ECP member from Sindh Nisar Durrani had told Mr Khan’s lawyer Shoaib Shaheen that the interior ministry had submitted a report stating that Mr Khan could not be presented and proposed that the commission send a team to jail to indict him. His lawyer had expressed concern, pointing out that his jail trial would send a wrong message.

However, the ECP declared to conduct indictment proceedings against him and the ex-minister in jail and asked the interior ministry to make necessary arrangements in this regard. It also directed the ministry to complete all necessary requirements within two days.

Intra-party polls

Meanwhile, the ECP has fixed for preliminary hearing around a dozen petitions challenging PTI’s intra-party elections and seeking the exercise afresh for tomorrow (December 8). The 11 petitions, to be taken up for hearing also include the one filed by Akbar S Babar, founding member of the party who gained prominence after filing foreign funding case against the PTI.

The ECP has rejected as baseless social media reports about registration of ghost voters in Mur­ree and other constituencies. “Un­d­er Sec­tions 26 and 27 of the Elections Act, 2017 a voter can only be registered on either the permanent or temporary address mentioned on his identity card. It is not necessary for any voter to be present in the electoral constituency,” a spokesman for the ECP explained. He said this was the reason for variation in the proportion of population and registered voters of different constituencies.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2023

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