The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to decide the matter of PTI’s intra-party polls and electoral symbol by tomorrow (Dec 22) in “accordance with the law”.

The verdict, which was reserved earlier in the day, was passed by a two-member bench comprising Justice Attique Shah and Justice Shakeel Ahmed on a set of PTI petitions.

The party had urged the PHC to direct the ECP to publish the results of its intra-party polls on the commission’s website, an exercise required to contest the upcoming general elections.

PTI’s intraparty elections, which resulted in Barrister Gohar Khan replacing Imran Khan as PTI chairman, were held on Dec 2 on directives issued by the electoral body. Gohar was elected as the new party chief after being nominated by Imran, who is incarcerated at Adiala Jail.

However, the party was on the receiving end of sharp criticism over the polls as estranged PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar announced that he would challenge the entire process. He had alleged that the PTI had carried out a selection process aimed at throwing out party workers to give the reins to a few lawyers.

Earlier this week, the ECP reserved its verdict in the case after hearing arguments from all the parties. Yesterday, the electoral body also reserved its judgement on a matter linked with the allocation of ‘bat’ as the poll symbol for the PTI.

In a written order issued today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the PHC noted that the dispute over the PTI’s intra-party elections had already been heard in detail by the ECP and the latter had also reserved its verdict in the case.

“[…] Keeping in view the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case and in larger interest of justice, rather than passing any order or observation qua publication of the certificate of the PTI on the website and its publication in the official gazette under the provision of Section 209(3) of the Elections Act, 2017, read with rule 158(2) of the Elections Act, 2017, respectively, we deem it appropriate to direct the ECP to decide the matter, so pending before it by Dec 22 instant positively, strictly in accordance with the law,” it read.

The hearing

During today’s hearing, Barrister Gohar contended that the ECP had not just issued a notice to the PTI, on the intra-party elections but also to the PTI’s provincial set-up.

“We didn’t approach the Islamabad High Court as there were fears of our party members being arrested,” he said. The lawyer highlighted that if the PTI was not allotted an election symbol by tomorrow, the deadline for filing nomination papers, all its candidates would be considered independent.

He further argued that a political party was empowered to decide the process of intra-party polls, adding that if these elections were linked to the allocation of the electoral symbol.

Barrister Gohar further said that the ECP had been delaying the matter and lamented that the PTI was being discriminated against.

“Are the leverages given to you in 2018 now being given to them?” Justice Shah asked. Meanwhile, Justice Ahmed said: “Don’t you think the ECP should itself decide on the complaints?”

At one point, Barrister Gohar said those who had challenged the intraparty polls were not a part of the PTI anymore. He also submitted a list of all the registered PTI members in court.

On the other hand, ECP counsel Mohsin Kamran said the commission would publish the results of PTI’s intra-party elections on its website once it was satisfied with them. “The polls are controversial,” he claimed.

“Who made them controversial?” Justice Shah inquired. “Are those who petitioned the elections a part of the party?”

For his part, the lawyer said the petitioners had not attached the information with their pleas.

The court then remarked that the ECP should decide the matter itself, adding that the party could challenge the decision if it wanted to. Subsequently, the verdict was reserved.

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