ISLAMABAD, Sept 5: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday rejected two identical references seeking to disqualify Tehrik-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan as member of the National Assembly.

The references were filed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr Sher Afgan Niazi, accusing Imran Khan of moral misconduct.

The references’ inadmissibility was announced by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Qazi Muhammad Farooq. He was accompanied by members of the commission Justice Naseem Sikandar of the Lahore High Court and Justice Ahmad Khan Lashari of the Balochistan High Court.

Imran Khan termed the decision a victory of justice and said the references had no legal basis and the only motive behind them was to exert pressure on him to withdraw the case he had filed against Altaf Hussain. “It was nothing but blackmail,” he said.

He said the move was clearly a reaction to his decision to fight a legal battle against MQM chief Altaf Hussain in the United Kingdom, adding that he had “concrete evidence to prove Altaf Hussain’s link to terrorist incidents in Pakistan”. He said there were 234 cases against Altaf Hussain, including those of murder and torture.

He said the basis of the reference against him was an ex parte decision of a US Court which had no legal value. “If they want to rely on ex parte judgments, what about the decision of the Canadian Supreme Court which declared the MQM a terrorist organisation.”

MQM’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Dr Farooq Sattar told Dawn he was shocked and disappointed by the ECP decision. He alleged that the Election Commission had made his party a scapegoat to improve its credibility ahead of the elections.

He said that the ECP decision was politically-motivated and was “not constitutional”.

Dr Farooq Sattar said his party counsel’s arguments on the maintainability of the reference were “very powerful”, but he regretted that the ECP did not consider the merits and facts of the case.

He said the legal and constitutional battle would continue.

“We have other options available. This is not the end of the world,” he said. Hinting at challenging the decision in the Supreme Court, he said the party would decide about its future plans after the detailed judgment.

The MQM leader rejected Imran Khan’s claim that the Los Angeles Court’s decision against him was ex parte. He said Mr Khan had deliberately refrained from appearing before the court and avoided a DNA test as suggested by the court.

Hamid Khan appeared as the counsel for Imran Khan while Barrister Habibur Rehman represented the MQM. Dr Sher Afgan Niazi personally pleaded his case.

The commission also took up a disqualification reference against former ruling party legislator Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan for changing political loyalty.

The hearing on the reference was adjourned because of the unavailability of the respondent’s counsel.