• Counsel says issues raised in party’s plea not subject to ‘judicial review’
• Gohar says no plans to boycott elections, despite concerns
• PTI claims 700 nomination papers rejected

PESHAWAR / ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakis­tan’s (ECP) lawyers argued before the Peshawar High Court on Tues­day that its single-judge bench had overstepped its jurisdiction by suspending the commission’s declaration on PTI’s intra-party polls and the subsequent revocation of its election symbol ‘bat’.

Justice Muhammad Ijaz Khan was informed by ECP lawyers that the commission was condemned unheard when another bench of the court granted interim relief to the PTI by suspending the ECP’s declaration on Dec 26. The bench after completion of their arguments iss­ued notices to the petitioners, inclu­ding PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan and six other leaders for today (Wednesday).

The bench was hearing a review application by the ECP requesting the court to recall its Dec 26 order as the bench had issued the same beyond its territorial jurisdiction. Justice Kamran Hayat Miankhel of the PHC had ordered a temporary suspension of the ECP’s decision, instructing the commission to publish PTI’s intra-party poll certificate on its website and restore the party’s election symbol. This said order is set to remain effective until Jan 9, 2024.

Advocates Sikander Bashir and Mohsin Kamran Siddique appeared for the ECP on Tuesday and stated that the writ petition of the PTI came up for hearing before the high court on Dec 26 and the court passed an interim order without issuing any notice to the ECP.

Sikander Bashir stated that the petitioners had sought interim relief for the suspension of the order of the commission of Dec 22, as well as for the publication of the intra-party polls certificate on the commission’s website along with the restoration of party’s symbol (bat). He argued that the interim order in fact decided the whole writ petition which amounted to granting the final relief.

“Under Article 199, the high court of a province is empowered to make an order directing a person performing within its territorial jurisdiction,” he argued.

He contended that the issues raised in the PTI’s writ petition were exclusively within the commission’s purview and generally not subject to judicial review under Article 199.

KP Advocate General Aamir Javed and Additional Attorney General Sanaullah Khan informed the bench the federal and KP governments were not party to the petition. Following the arguments, the bench observed that it would reserve an order. However, after a central leader of the Insaf lawyers Forum, Mashal Azam, turned up and stated that a notice had not been issued to the petitioners on the ECP’s application, the bench set the next hearing for today (Wednesday).

‘PTI will not boycott polls’

PTI Chairman Gohar Khan on Tuesday emphasised that despite serious concerns about the fairness of the electoral process, his party would not boycott the general elections. Mr Khan’s statement came after consultations with former prime minister Imran Khan at Adiala Jail.

Talking to journalists associated with international media outlets, Mr Khan asserted, “There is no plan to boycott the elections, had we planned to do so we would have already boycotted.”

He criticised the ECP for its decision to deprive the PTI of its traditional election symbol and added that the ECP’s move would have implications for the party’s share of women seats, its prospects in the elections of speakers, prime minister and chief ministers, and the Senate polls.

‘700 papers rejected’

Separately, PTI leader Hammad Azhar tweeted that the nomination papers of 700 party candidates in as many as 420 constituencies of national and provincial assemblies had been rejected during the scrutiny process.

Mr Azhar also shared a list with his ‘X’ post, saying the nomination papers of PTI candidates in almost 120 constituencies of the National Assembly and nearly 300 provincial assemblies had been rejected.

Separately, Advocate Naeem Ahmad Panjhota also filed an appeal in the appellate tribunal against the rejection of his nomination papers from NA-82, PP-71 and PP-88.

Khalid Hasnain and Wajih Ahmad Sheikh in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2024

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