ISLAMABAD: A five-member bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), headed by Chief Election Commis­sioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, on Tu­­e­­­sday reserved a judgement on a matter linked with the allocation of ‘bat’ as poll symbol to PTI.

Setting a new precedence, the ECP had taken notice of the intra-party elections of PTI in which Barrister Gohar Ali was easily elected as the party’s new chairman.

The polls were held on December 3, days after the ECP declared as null and void the intra-party polls held in June 2022, giving the PTI 20 days to hold fresh elections or be ready to become ineligible for poll symbol.

During the hearing, counsel for PTI Barrister Ali Zafar regretted that the electoral body had objected to the party chairman’s signature on Form 65, pointing out that under the ECP’s rules it is for the party chairman to sign the document. He also recalled that PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif also signed Form 65 of his party’s intra-party polls.

Commission defers Imran’s indictment in contempt of CEC case, again; Ahad Cheema’s removal ordered

He said this was not something that could become a reason to suspend or take away poll symbol of a party.

“What rule demands the intra-party polls to be publicised in such a manner,” he said while responding to the ECP’s objection that the party didn’t publicise the place, election schedule and the appointment of the CEC.

The PTI’s lawyer also questioned why the electoral body didn’t take notice of intra-party polls held by other political parties. “The PML-N only conducted intra-party polls on the national level and didn’t do so at the provincial level. Did you challenge their intra-party elections,” he asked.

Indictment in contempt case deferred

Separately, the commission on Tuesday once again deferred the indictment of PTI founding chairman Imran Khan and former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry in the contempt of the commission and chief election commissioner case at Adiala Jail.

Appearing before a bench of the ECP, Mr Khan said he would only talk through his lawyers. Fawad Chaudhry also took the same line. Lawyers of both came some 45 minutes late and blamed their search at the entry gate for the delay.

The ECP branch deferred the indictment and adjourned the proceedings till December 27.

Talking to reporters outside the jail, Mr Khan’s lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said Mr Khan’s petition, challenging the jail trial was pending before the Lahore High Court. He claimed that order for the trial was passed without any lawful authority, saying, “this is an open trial case, only the place of hearing has changed. And, the case can be heard transparently only in the presence of the media”.

He also urged that besides the media, public, family members and lawyers should be allowed to attend the indictment proceedings. He complained that Mr Khan’s legal team was not allowed to enter the jail today with the complete case record.

He explained that the indictment was deferred because neither the PTI counsel nor the advocate general could reach in time for the hearing.

Removal of Ahad Cheema ordered

Meanwhile, the ECP has also ordered the immediate removal of Ahad Cheema as adviser to the caretaker prime minister.

“….Ahad Cheema has remained the part of the previous political government and presently he is working as Adviser to the Caretaker Prime Minister for Establishment Division, which may influence the holding of free, fair and transparent Elections. Therefore, Mr Ahad Cheema is directed to be removed from the post of Adviser to the Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan for Establishment Division.”

“Secretary Cabinet Division is directed to issue the notification for his removal immediately,” an order passed by a five-member bench of the ECP, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, read.

The order came a day after the expiry of deadline set by the ECP for Cheema to submit his statement of assets and liabilities.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2023

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