The PTI on Monday said it would challenge the Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to declare its intra-party polls as unconstitutional and revoke the iconic ‘bat’ symbol in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) tomorrow (Tuesday).

The development comes after the electoral watchdog last week voided, for the second time in less than a month, PTI’s internal elections in which Barrister Gohar Ali Khan was easily elected as the party’s new chairman.

The verdict came following a first-of-its-kind microscopic examination of the inner workings of a political party and declared the party ineligible to obtain an election symbol to contest the upcoming general elections.

“It is held that PTI has not complied with our directions rendered therein order dated 23rd November 2023 and failed to hold intra-party election in accordance with PTI prevailing Constitution, 2019 and Election Act, 2017, and Election Rules, 2017,” the ECP had said in its 11-page order.

The party had termed the decision part of the “famous London Plan” and a “disgusting and shameful attempt to stop PTI from [participating in the] election”.

It had also claimed that the party would still win the general elections, maintaining that it would appeal the decision at every forum. It asserted that its candidates would indeed contest the polls with the ‘bat’ symbol, come what may.

Speaking to Dawn.com today, PTI lawyer and central information secretary Mohammad Muazzam Butt said the party had decided to approach the high court and would file a writ petition on Dec 26.

He said the main party leadership would file the case, claiming that the ECP’s verdict was a “legally flawed” decision, adding that the commission had failed to serve justice in its order.

Butt further claimed that petitions against the PTI’s internal elections were filed in the ECP based on “malicious intent” and “on orders of some people”.

“We are not being provided a level playing field and attempts are being made to keep us away from polls,” the secretary added.

In an interview on Dawn News programme Doosra Rukh on Sunday night, PTI lawyer Naeem Haider Panjutha had also said the party would approach the PHC instead of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

He said that the PTI had expected that the ECP would make such a decision.

“By snatching the ’bat symbol, how can you say this will be a free and fair election? You are taking away the rights of the voters of such a big political party,” he said. He said that the law and the Constitution were clear that the electoral symbol of a party could not be taken away.

He said that there were at least 15 cases where the IHC had done “injustice” with Imran. Panjutha said the party would approach the PHC on Dec 26 and expected that the party would be given justice.

ECP says did not offer ‘bat’ symbol to anyone else

Meanwhile, the ECP said in a post on social media platform X that it did not offer the ‘bat’ electoral symbol to anyone else, including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Parliamentarians Chairman Pervez Khattak.

Addressing a press conference in Peshawar earlier today, Khattak had alleged that he was offered the electoral symbol. Without elaborating on who had made the offer, he said he had refused to accept it.

“I have given in writing that I don’t want it,” he added. He said many more people were continuing to join his party.

PTI, ECP both found at fault

Meanwhile, experts have criticised both the poll watchdog as well as the former ruling party for what they called their contradictory behaviour.

Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) head Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said PTI should have been more careful about its intra-party polls. “At the same time we have seen the election commission has been soft over many other things,” he added.

He had told Dawn the PTI had the best-detailed description for holding the intra-party elections and that procedure was followed in 2012. “That excellent democratic process was not witnessed again, possibly the PTI too tried to copy the procedures of other parties,” he opined, adding, “But there is a difference as the constitutions of other parties do not have such detailed description of conducting the intra-party elections.”

Mehboob said PTI’s elections were due in 2021, but because of Covid-19 lockdowns, they were held in June 2022.

“PTI was not careful at that time too and the procedures listed in their constitution were not followed. Later, when the ECP directed it to hold the elections within 20 days the PTI should have been more careful as far as following its own constitution was concerned,” he added.

The Pildat chief also found fault with ECP’s working. He said the watchdog has not been treating all parties even-handedly. “ECP should have taken action when Senator Bugti was inducted into the caretaker cabinet because he was a BAP member of the upper house,” he pointed out. “He was holding such an important portfolio and just as the elections are approaching he has joined another party; this should not be allowed.”

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