• Says depriving party of its election symbol is pre-poll rigging
• Gohar asks ECP to issue party’s poll certificate without delay

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Teh­r­eek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Saturday exp­re­ssed reservations over the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) “dil­ly-dallying tactics” in granting the party its election symbol, the ‘bat’.

The party has called for immediate action from the electoral body to avoid further complications, stressing that it had already submitted all the required documents to the commission after holding intra-party polls.

In a statement, a PTI spokesperson emphasised the urgency of the matter, urging the Lahore High Court (LHC) to expedite the hearing of Barrister Ali Zafar’s petition to avert the “tragic death of democracy”.

Mr Zafar’s petition challenges the ECP’s Nov 23 order, which annulled PTI’s intra-party polls held in June last year, giving the former ruling party 20 days for a fresh election if it did not want to lose its electoral symbol. Subsequently, the party conducted the polls on Dec 2, electing Barrister Gohar Khan as its new chairman.

The spokesperson alleged that the PTI was the target of the worst state repression and ongoing political engineering before the elections, adding that all the evidence and signs were enough to expose the state’s ambitions to commit historical electoral fraud in the coming general election.

He went on to say that “the country’s most popular political party”, which he claimed enjoyed the support of over three-fourths of the eligible voting population, was being subjected to a conspiracy and a “technical knockout”.

The party official said that all unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic tactics were repeatedly being used to sideline former PTI chairman Imran Khan, currently imprisoned in Adiala Jail, and his party from the political arena.

He also criticised the current governments in Pakistan as unconstitutional and undemocratic, alleging that their main objective was to undermine Mr Khan’s public mandate.

The spokesperson highlighted the May 9 incidents, claiming a concerted effort to dismantle PTI and suppress its supporters, including the detenti­on of Mr Khan and other party workers.

Accusations were also levelled against the ECP and its leadership for discriminatory practices and decrees aimed at erasing PTI’s political presence. The spokesperson asserted that these actions reflected a desperate attempt by anti-democratic forces to exclude the party from politics.

The official also condemned the ECP’s decision to invalidate PTI’s intra-party elections and the demand for a re-election within 20 days.

He insisted that it was unprecedented in the country’s history that Imran Khan, PTI’s founder chairman-for-life, voluntarily stepped down from the position for the sake of democracy and the rule of law.

The spokesperson said that instead of handing over the chairmanship of the party to someone from his family, Mr Khan nominated a capable and loyal party worker as a candidate for the post of chairman in the intra-party elections.

After completing its intra-party elections on Dec 2 and submitting all necessary documents to the ECP, the PTI expressed dismay at the ECP’s failure to issue the party’s election symbol. Since general elections are around the corner, this delay by the ECP was a severe form of pre-poll rigging, the spokesperson said.

He argued that withholding the ‘bat’ symbol is tantamount to undermining the country’s Constitution, democracy, transparent elections and political identity from millions of Pakistanis.

Meanwhile, PTI Chairman Barris­ter Gohar Khan called on the ECP to issue party’s poll certificate without delay. “Free and fair election in any constitutional democracy means the participation of all political parties in the process and the election symbol of a political party signifies that process.”

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2023

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