• Ex-PM to sign nomination papers for Lahore, Mianwali, Islamabad today
• PTI accuses authorities of snatching nomination papers from party candidates
• Laments raids on workers’ houses without warrants

ISLAMABAD: Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan would contest the upcoming general elections from three constituencies of Lahore, Mianwali and Islamabad, PTI Chairman Gohar Khan said on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after visiting Imran Khan in Adiala Jail, Mr Gohar said the former premier would be provided with his nomination papers on Thursday (today), vowing that “Khan sahib will contest these polls, God willing”.

On Aug 5, a trial court in Islamabad convicted Imran Khan in a case filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that involved concealing details of state gifts and jailed him for three years.

The verdict meant he was disqualified from contesting general elections for five years. However, the same month the Islamabad High Court (IHC) suspended Mr Khan’s three-year sentence, but he still remains in jail in other cases.

Earlier this month, the Islamabad High Court reserved its verdict on Mr Khan’s petition seeking the suspension of his conviction in the Toshakhana gifts case.

Mr Khan had asked all party workers to file their nomination papers, Mr Gohar said, adding that the decision to allot party tickets would still be taken by the former premier. Mr Gohar said he would also participate in the upcoming polls from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Buner district.

The newly elected PTI chairman said the party wanted polls to be held on Feb 8 at any cost. He highlighted that his party had time and again stressed the need for a level playing field for all political parties.

However, he alleged that nomination papers were being “snatched” from party candidates. “Today, we were very upset at what Shah [Mehmood Qureshi] sahib told us,” he noted, claiming that the PTI vice chairman’s nomination papers had been “snatched” from Mr Qureshi’s secretary.

“If you snatch nomination papers from people, it would be sham elections,” he said.

Barrister Ali Zafar, speaking alongside Mr Gohar outside Adiala Jail, said the IHC was set to release its verdict on Mr Khan’s petition challenging conviction in the Toshakhana case. “We hope that the judgment will soon be announced be­c­ause the [election] sch­e­dule has been released,” the lawyer said, hoping that the verdict would be in the PTI’s favour.

“As long as the PTI candidates are concerned, our workers in jail, who have rendered sacrifices for the party in this difficult time, would be 100 per cent allotted tickets on a priority basis,” he said.

“The rest of the candidates have also been finalised and their names will be announced soon,” Mr Zafar stated. He said that stopping party workers from filing nomination papers was an “undemocratic exercise” and would jeopardise free and fair elections. “We request the ECP to take action on this,” the lawyer added.

Raids on candidates’ homes

Meanwhile on Wednes­day, the PTI also accused the police and district adm­i­nistration of raiding the homes of party candidates without warrants and hara­ssing women and children.

The party urged the Election Commission of Pakistan to stop “engineered” pre-poll rigging actions against PTI candidates immediately.

In a statement, PTI Sec­r­e­tary General Omar Ayub categorically stated that no matter how much pressure was exerted on PTI’s candidates and activists, the party would secure a massive landslide victory in the coming elections.

He claimed that reports were coming in from across the country, especially Punjab, of actions and threats against PTI candidates, their proposers and seconders.

Repeating the allegation levelled by PTI Chair­man Gohar Khan, Mr Ayub said that nomination papers were being snatc­h­ed from the people by uni­formed police officers, who were also raiding houses without warrants and harassing, threatening and beating women and children.

Similarly, he lamented that PTI candidates in jail were not being allowed to sign their nomination forms. “On being told that it is their constitutional rig­ht, the jail authorities simply shrug and say that they have orders from ‘above’. We need a clear definition of ‘above’,” he added.

“We can only assume that the chief executive of the country is caretaker PM Anwaarul Haq Kakar and that he is ordering these illegal actions thro­ugh the caretaker CMs,” Mr Ayub said.

He said it was the res­ponsibility of the ECP and Chief Election Commissi­oner Sikandar Sultan Raja to ensure that these illegal and engineered pre-poll rigging actions against PTI candidates by the police and district administration were stopped immediately.

A PTI also spokesperson stressed the need to avoid any overt or covert attempts to sabotage the scheduled general elections, saying that bar councils and bar associations’ declarations supported and validated the long-standing position of PTI regarding the ECP and Mr Raja.

However, he added that the party would not tolerate any attempt to delay the long-awaited general elections even for a single day beyond the fixed date of Feb 8, 2024.

Reacting to the statements of bar councils and bar associations raising questions about the alleged impartiality of Mr Raja, the PTI spokesperson said that most of the contents of their declarations fully supported and validated PTI’s stance about Mr Raja.

He said the PTI had been highlighting his “unconstitutional and illegal” decisions over the past four years in general, and the last two years in particular.

Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad and Mansoor Malik in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2023

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