A high court in Pakistan on Wednesday restored the top election commission’s order suspending the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s intra-party polls as void and revoking its iconic cricket bat electoral symbol, in a major blow to Imran Khan’s embattled party.
The verdict, reserved earlier in the day, was announced by Peshawar High Court judge Ejaz Khan on the Election Commission of Pakistan’s review petitions, the Dawn newspaper reported.
On December 22, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected PTI’s intra-party elections and deprived the party of its cricket bat symbol. Barrister Gohar Khan was elected as the party’s new chairman in the internal elections in December.
The party challenged the verdict in the Peshawar High Court which on December 26 suspended the ECP’s declaration of the PTI’s intra-party polls as unconstitutional as well as the subsequent revocation of the party’s iconic symbol. The election commission challenged the high court verdict.
During the hearing presided over by Justice Khan, PTI counsel Anwar said that the ECP was not a judicial institution, adding that seeking court intervention for or against its own verdict constituted contempt of court, the newspaper reported.
Anwar claimed that all parties, except the PPP, hatched a conspiracy to keep the PTI out of the electoral battle. He further asserted that the Constitution mandated free and fair elections.
On his part, the ECP lawyer said that the PTI had secured a stay order against the commission’s verdict. “We have the authority to file a writ,” he said.
After listening to the arguments, the court reserved its verdict.
A day earlier, the ECP counsel presented his arguments, while the PTI lawyers remained absent. Subsequently, the court issued a notice to the PTI for the completion of arguments.
On Monday, PTI chairman Barrister Gohar Khan said that his party will participate in the general elections even without getting the cricket ‘bat’ as its electoral symbol.
Gohar Khan made the remarks during a meeting with journalists in Islamabad where he responded to their questions and talked about the current political situation in Pakistan, including the challenges confronting his party, especially over the election symbol.
Gohar Khan said that his party would participate in the Feb 8 elections even on a different symbol if ‘bat’ was not allotted but he would never leave the field open for other parties. “Even if we do not get the bat symbol, we will still participate in the elections. PTI will not boycott the elections under any circumstances,” he said.
He also rejected the impression that his party had any dispute with the powerful military establishment. “PTI and Imran Khan have consistently said from the beginning that the military is ours, the country is ours, and there is no dispute with anyone, including the establishment,” he said.
He also lamented at the treatment meted out to his party which he termed as “unprecedented” and asked the Supreme Court to take action against the lack of a level playing field for the party founded by Imran Khan.
His remarks came as the PTI faced unusual pressure to get fair treatment in the run-up to the elections. The party ran into trouble after the May 9 violence when its supporters attacked military installations.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)