LAHORE: The PTI has not managed to catch a break, as it claimed that several of its candidates were left injured, harassed and intimidated and unable to file their nomination papers for the Feb 8 elections until the closing of the process on Sunday evening.

However, the party said it still managed to submit nomination papers of a large number of its aspirants.

The PTI was dealt yet another blow when the ECP did not share the lists of names of its aspirants for reserved seats for women and minorities. The party is now hoping to get relief from the Peshawar High Court, where it has challenged the watchdog’s decision of depriving it of its election symbol.

The situation has forced the party to employ multiple means to stay in the election arena against all odds. Though the party’s status remains unclear, the potential candidates did mention in their nomination papers that they belong to the PTI.

The PTI has also filed a large number of complaints with the ECP against the “highhandedness” of the police and other officials in civvies, who allegedly snatc­hed nomination papers from its aspirants and their attorneys. They added that several candidates and their proposers and seconders were thrashed and injured by these personnel.

The provincial election commissioner (PEC) in Punjab seems to have acknowledged the PTI’s woes, as it wrote to the chief secretary and the IGP Punjab that the process of filing of nomination papers was “marred by the incidents of fear, intimidation, snatching of nomination papers, etc”.

The PEC also mentioned that returning officers, who mostly are from provincial and federal bureaucracy, were not acting in a proactive manner as required by the electoral laws.

On the other hand, PTI leaders kept sharing on social media, particularly X, claiming that even ROs had refused to accept nomination papers of those who approached them with PTI’s affiliation.

The nomination papers of Saleem Sarwar Jora, the president of PTI Gujrat district, were not received. Similarly, party leader Ali Mohammad Khan in an X post said that papers of Intezar Hussain Panjotha, a member of party foun­der Imran Khan’s legal team, were not received by the RO concerned.

When contacted, PTI’s central spokesman Raoof Hasan claimed that several hopefuls and their supporters were still missing and not in contact with the party.

Mr Hasan said that since the ECP had deprived the party of its election symbol ‘bat’, the party had approached the Peshawar High Court and expressed the hope that they would be given relief on Tues­day. In case of denial, he added, the party would approach the Supreme Court to set aside ECP’s decision of not accepting PTI as a party and issuing its electoral symbol.

Answering a question, the PTI spokesman said that while there were fears that some members could not submit their papers, most candidates had been able to do so.

“The PTI has completed all formalities in all aspects to ensure that it will stay in the election arena as a major player,” the spokesman added. In Punjab, the attorneys of incarcerated PTI leaders Dr Yasmin Rashid, Ijaz Chaudhry, Aaliya Hamza and Sanam Javed submitted their nomination papers with the RO offices concerned.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2023

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