ECP reserves ruling on 'irregularities' in PTI's intra-party polls

6 months ago 159

ISLAMABAD: With parties gearing up for upcoming general elections slated for February 8, 2024, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Tuesday reserved its verdict on the issue of alleged "irregularities" in the recent intra-party polls conducted by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI).

A five-member ECP bench led by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja conducted the hearing in Islamabad after the top electoral body had taken notice of alleged contortions in the PTI's intra-party elections.

Earlier this month, the PTI replaced its founder Imran Khan as the party chairman by electing Barrister Gohar Khan as the new party head via intra-party polls held on December 2.

The polls took place after the top electoral body had declared the intra-party polls as "not transparent" ordering the holding of fresh elections within 20 days or risk losing its "bat" symbol.

However, following the polls, the ECP had sought PTI's response over the intra-party elections allegedly not being in line with the Election Act 2017 and the party's own constitution.

A day earlier, the electoral authority had reserved its verdict in response to the PTI founding member Akbar S Babar's plea challenging the "rigged/fraudulent" intra-party polls.

In their petition, Babar along with other PTI members, sought fresh party polls contending that the process was marred by "irregularities".

During today's hearing, PTI's counsel Barrister Ali Zafar lamented that the electoral body had objected to the party chairman's signature on Form 65.

"We were asked as to why the party chairman signed Form 65 and not the defacto/assignee [who was given the relevant authority]. It's enshrined within the ECP's rules that the party chairman is to sign [the said form]," Zafar said.

He also highlighted that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif also signed on Form 65 of his party's intra-party polls.

"This is not something on which the party's [electoral] symbol can be suspended or taken away," the PTI counsel added.

"What rule demands the intra-party polls to be publicised in such a manner," he said while responding the the ECP's objection that the party didn't publicise the place, election schedule and the appointment of the CEC.

The PTI's lawyer also questioned why the electoral body didn't take notice of intra-party polls held by other political parties.

“The PML-N only conducted intra-party polls on the national level and didn’t do so at the provincial level. Did you [the ECP] challenge their intra-party elections?”

Responding to the PTI's concerns, CEC Raja reassured Zafar and said that the electoral body is holding the hearing for their benefit.

"The ECP wanted to hear you [PTI] before issuing its verdict. We want the case to be wrapped quickly," the top official said, adding, "Other parties have also been issued notices."

After hearing the PTI's arguments, the bench reserved its verdict on the matter — which is to be announced at a later undisclosed date.