The PTI on Thursday moved the Peshawar High Court (PHC) seeking contempt proceedings against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over the electoral watchdog’s failure to implement the court’s directives in the ‘bat’ symbol case.

A day earlier, in a major relief ahead of the February 8 general elections, the PHC had declared “illegal” the ECP’s decision to revoke PTI’s iconic ‘bat’ electoral symbol and reject its intra-party polls.

In the short order, the PHC had termed the ECP order as “illegal, without any lawful authority and of no legal effect”.

“The ECP is directed to forthwith publish the certificate [of intra-party polls] filed by the petitioner on its website in terms of section 209 of the Elections Act, 2017,” the bench consisting of Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Syed Arshad Ali said in a brief order.

According to the court, the PTI was entitled to the election symbol “strictly in terms of sections 215 and 217, read with any other enabling provision of the Elections Act 2017 and Election Rules 2017”.

On December 22, the election commission had decided against letting PTI retain its electoral symbol for the general election, saying that it had failed to hold intra-party polls as per its prevailing constitution and election laws.

Subsequently, the PTI had approached the PHC against the ECP order on Dec 26 and a single-member bench restored the electoral symbol of the party till January 9 and directed that the case be fixed before a divisional bench.

On Dec 30, the electoral watchdog had filed a review application in the PHC, arguing that the court had overstepped its jurisdiction. Days later, in a major blow for the PTI, the high court had withdrawn the stay on the ECP order, stripping the party of its symbol again.

Consequently, the PTI moved the Supreme Court against the restoration of the ECP ruling. However, the party had withdrawn the appeal yesterday as the matter was already being heard by the PHC, which subsequently handed the ‘bat’ back to the party.

The petition submitted by the PTI today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, named Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, the ECp secretary, and the commission’s members Justice (retd) Ikram Ullah Khan, Nisar Ahmad Durrani, Babar Hassan Bharwana, and Shah Muhammad Jatoi as respondents in the case.

The plea urged the court to punish the respondents as per the law for not complying with the yesterday’s orders.

The petition stated that the election commission had not “issued the certificate to PTI on its website” despite yesterday’s directives, which amounted to contempt of court.

“[…] respondents disregarded the order of this honourable court and downgraded the authority of this honourable court,” the petition read. “That omission of respondents to act upon the order of this honourable court speaks of the fact that respondents undermined the authority of this honourable court,” it said.

The plea accused the respondents of not “moving an inch” for the implementation of the PHC order and for “willfully disobeyed the same”.

It added that the action of respondents fell within the ambit of contempt as respondents ignored the court’s directions. The plea was filed by Advocates Qazi Muhammad Anwar and Shah Faisal Ilyas.

Speaking to Dawn.com, Advocate Ilyas confirmed that the PHC had accepted and listed the petition for hearing tomorrow before a two-judge bench.

“Yesterday the PHC restored the ‘bat’ symbol,” he said. “The court in its order directed the ECP to publish the PTI’s certificate on their website,” he said.

Advocate Ilyas concluded that the election commission had failed to carry out the orders of the PHC despite the passage of 24 hours.

‘It’s been too long’

Speaking to the media in Rawalpindi, PTI’s Barrister Gohar Ali Khan said that party tickets would be announced tonight. He further said that the party would also begin issuing tickets soon.

“We request the ECP to publish our certificate on its website today, it has already been too long,” Gohar said, adding that he did not want ticketholders to face any issues in the coming days.

  Barrister Gohar Khan speaks to the media in Rawalpindi. — DawnNewsTV
Barrister Gohar Khan speaks to the media in Rawalpindi. — DawnNewsTV

He noted that the ECP should heed the order of the court and fulfil their responsibility of keeping elections free, fair and transparent.

Responding to a question, Gohar said that if the ECP wanted to approach the Supreme Court against yesterday’s verdict, it had the right to do so.

“But until the SC sets aside this order, the implementation of this order is very important. The ECP is a legal institution, it is mandatory that whatever order has been given be implemented immediately,” Gohar said.

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