ISLAMABAD: The PTI has submitted a comprehensive response to objections raised by Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against the third intra-party elections (IPE) held in less than two years, urging the ECP to officially recognise the latest exercise held on March 3.

In a response to the ECP’s seven questions the party’s federal chief election commissioner Raoof Hasan said the PTI was an existing, active and functioning political party enlisted with the ECP under Section 202 of the Election Act, 2017.

“There is no provision in the Election Act, 2017, or in the Election Rules, 2017, that an enlisted party would lose its “organisational structure” after the expiry of five years if no lPE are held within five years,” the response meant to address ECP’s reservations says.

It further says the PTI held its IPE on June 9, 2022, but the ECP directed on Nov 23, 2023, that IPE had to be held under PTI’s ‘prevalent constitution’ (2019 Constitution).

Asks commission to officially recognise the exercise held on March 3

The PTl then held its IPE on Dec 2, 2023, but the ECP held the PTI Secretary General could not have appointed PTI’s Federal Election Commission to hold lPE. Therefore, the PTI held its IPE for the third time on March 3, 2024. And for holding these elections a meeting of the PTI’s general body, comprising all members of PTI in Pakistan, was convened on Jan 31.

The requisite approval was obtained from the general body whereby FEC was also appointed to hold IPE as early as possible. Then the ECP was informed by PTI on Feb 21 of all the steps taken for holding the IPE in light of the approvals of general body.

It says the ECP affirmed on March 2 those steps and directed the party to proceed and hold IPE in accordance with PTI’s constitution. The IPE was accordingly held on March 3 and documents filed with the ECP. Hence, PTI is an enlisted political party till date and as such it continues to exercise its rights under the relevant provi-sions of law, including Article 17 of the Constitution, Elections Act, 2017, and Election Rules, 2017,“ the PTI insists.

In reply to a question as to why the PTI should not be proceeded against under Section 202 (5) of the Elections Act, it said there was no basis to proceed against PTI under Section 202(5) of the 2017 Act. As a matter of law, enlistment is a one-time exercise by a political party or the ECP. After enactment of Elections Act, 2017, for ‘deemed enlistment’ under Section 202(4), all that was required was that the party must have filed with ECP documents under Section 202(2) within 60 days of commencement of Elections Act, 2017.

“There is no dispute that these documents were filed with the ECP within time. The bare reading of Section 202 (5) provides that if ‘an enlisted political party’ does not file with ECP the documents mentioned in Section 202(2) within sixty days as required under the constitution, the Commission shall cancel the enlistment of the party.

Thus, if a party has not earlier been enlisted with ECP, Section 202(1) requires that it must file for enlistment within 30 days of its formation under Section 200. However, if a party having earlier been enlisted with ECP under a previous repealed law does not file documents required under Section 202(2) within 60 days of commencement of the 2017 Act, as required under Section 202(4) for enlistment under the act, its enlistment shall be cancelled by the ECP after affording an opportunity of hearing. It was submitted that Section 202(5) covers an altogether different situation and cannot be resorted to against any enlisted party.

Responding to another objection it said PTI’s general body meeting dated 31-01-2024 meets the requirements of Section 208(3) of the Election Act, 2017, which provides that all members of the political party at federal, provincial and local levels shall constitute the electoral college for election of the party’s general council at the respective levels.

“That means general council (GC) of a party may be elected by all members and then the GC may elect the office-bearers if so required by constitution of a party”.

The response reiterates the PTI’s stance that election symbol should never have been withdrawn from the PTI. It also points out that a review plea against the Supreme Court judgement was pending. About the question of imposition of fine for not holding intra-party elections, it says PTI cannot be proceeded against as it has held elections.

It pointed out that earlier, the ECP instead of imposing fine withdrew PTI’s election symbol. “The ECP cannot now reopen that matter in order to impose an additional penalty in the form of a fine having chosen not to do so at the relevant time,” it notes.

“We hope all your reservations have been appropriately addressed herein above. You are, therefore, requested once again to kindly publish on your website the requisite certificate under Section 209 (3) at the earliest possible,” the response submitted by the PTI said.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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