The PTI on Friday alleged that conspiracies were being hatched to snatch its iconic electoral symbol and exclude the party from the February 8 general elections.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the PTI have been in “bat blood” over the past few days. The controversy stems from the electoral watchdog’s earlier decision to strip PTI of its symbol following the annulment of its intra-party elections for not complying with the Elections Act and the party’s own constitution.
Earlier this week, the Peshawar High Court suspended the commission’s order and directed it to publish the certificate of PTI’s intra-party polls on its website “keeping in view the urgency, that a political party has been denuded of its symbol, meaning hearby that aspirants from the general public who were willing to vote for the petitioners’ party were divested of their right to vote as per their choice”.
The PHC verdict was criticised by several political leaders, including JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad today, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan said the ‘bat’ was not just the PTI’s electoral symbol but was also the symbol of the expectations of the Pakistani nation.
“The Supreme Court has settled that snatching the electoral symbol is equivalent to dissolving a political party and this right only lies with the apex court in Article 17 [of the Constitution],” he said.
“All these political leaders [of the Pakistan Democratic Movement] won’t be able to gain anything on February 8. They will all lose their seats if free, fair and transparent elections are conducted,” Barrister Gohar asserted. “Therefore they are trying to take the ‘bat’ away from us.”
The PTI chairman stressed that he was a representative of Imran, asserting that the former prime minister “was, is and will always remain our leader” irrespective was wherever he was.
The lawyer highlighted that the highest number of nomination papers had been filed by PTI candidates. “If you take away our electoral symbol, will all of them contest as independent candidates? If this happens, who will be responsible for horsetrading after the polls?”
Gohar further pointed out that the upcoming elections were the most crucial for the country and derailing them would result in a huge loss for the country. He also played videos of other political leaders criticising the PHC verdict, alleging that they had attacked the judiciary.
“Is it not better for the judiciary to look into this matter?” he asked, alleging that conspiracies were being hatched to exclude the PTI from the electoral process.
Meanwhile, PTI leader Latif Khosa lamented the “leniencies” being shown to PML-N Supremo Nawaz Sharif. “We have seen how his nomination papers were accepted […] how is it possible when the SC disqualified for life?”
“On the other end, the nomination papers of none of us candidates were accepted. This is the worst poll rigging in the history of Pakistan,” he claimed but warned that the entire world was watching this in real-time.
Khosa further stated that an electoral symbol was extremely important as it was used for the identification of a political party, particularly in areas where literacy rates were low.
“But taking away the symbol, you will deprive the nation of its fundamental rights,” he added.
IHC allows PTI leaders to hold election meetings with Imran in jail
Earlier in the day, the Islamabad High Court granted PTI leaders and lawyers permission to Imran — who is incarcerated at Adiala Jail — and hold election meetings.
The order was passed by Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb on a petition filed by Imran seeking permission to hold meetings with party members Asad Qaiser, Junaid Akbar Khan, senators Aurangzeb Khan and Dost Mohammad Khan, and Ishtiaq Meherban, among others, to strategise ahead of the elections.
The plea also requested the court to instruct the superintendent of Adiala Jail to ensure privacy for Imran during his consultations with his legal team.
Earlier, PTI Chairman Gohar Khan had said the decision to allot tickets would still be taken by Imran. Meanwhile, Barrister Ali Zafar had asserted that PTI workers in jail would be prioritised when it came to the allotment of tickets.
Today, Attorney-General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan, PTI lawyers and the Adiala Jail superintendent appeared in the IHC.
At the outset, PTI counsel Shoaib Shaheen said the party needed to hold discussions for the allotment of 700 tickets while the AGP raised objections to the maintainability of the plea.
Justice Aurangzeb expressed displeasure at Awan’s arguments and asked: “Is the additional note from the Supreme Court insufficient for you? Do you want me to write a note against you as well?”
He passed these remarks in reference to Justice Athar Minallah’s additional note in the cipher case. In his note, the SC judge had highlighted that it was the Election Commission of Pakistan and the government’s duty to ensure that the public was facilitated in expressing its will through a “genuine election”, adding that it was also bound to ensure that there was no perception of oppression or repression against one political party while others were treated favourably.
Mentioning these remarks, Justice Aurangzeb said the AGP and advocate general were representing the caretaker government and should therefore be impartial.
“A terrible system is being run under the interim government where even consultation on elections is not allowed,” he remarked, asking if the caretakers wanted to “derail the polls”.
Subsequently, the court allowed PTI lawyers, including Chairman Gohar Khan, to hold consultations with Imran in jail. The court also passed orders for a meeting between Gohar and the ex-premier to be held under the supervision of the jail superintendent.
“Permission for consultations on polls is a fundamental right,” Justice Aurangzeb said, stressing that the caretaker government should be “neutral” during elections.
“Opposing meetings between PTI chairman and Imran raises questions on the neutrality of the interim set-up,” the judge added and disposed of the petition.
Talking to reporters, PTI lawyer Shaheen said the caretakers “are actually chair takers and everyone can see on whose orders they are functioning”.
“They all have a problem with the fact that Imran Khan and the nation are on one page. Today, the public is standing with Imran Khan,” he asserted, adding that the ECP and elite political parties were seeing their defeat.
“What is the capacity or credibility left of this puppet caretaker government?” the lawyer asked. He also criticised the police maltreatment of PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi outside Adiala Jail earlier this week.
“We have made a mockery of ourselves in the entire world,” Shaheen added.