ECP issues notice to PTI on pleas against party polls

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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan Friday admitted the complaints of PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar and 13 other party members against the recently-held PTI’s intra-party election, which they dubbed as fraudulent. Notices were issued to the petitioners as well as the PTI for regular hearings.

A five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and four other members of the ECP, after a lengthy preliminary hearing, decided to issue notices to the 14 complainants as well as PTI for a regular hearing of the case on December 12.

The Election Commission order came only after a preliminary hearing by the complainants and their counsels here.

Akbar S. Babar was represented by Syed Ahmad Hassan Shah. The complainants including the former vice president of PTI women’s wing Noreen Farooq Khan, Mahmood Khan, Yusuf Ali former General Secretary PTI Swabi and Bilal Azhar Rana, founding member from Taxila, and their respective counsels explained before the bench how they were denied their fundamental right of participating in the intra party elections.

Babar’s senior lawyer contended that for any election to be considered democratic it must include a programme, a schedule, a method of elections, voter lists, rules and regulations, however, none existed. “Hasn’t your membership [of the party] ended,” asked ECP member. Babar’s lawyer said it had not yet ended, adding that a court’s decision was available in this regard. He said his client was barred from garnering nomination papers before the intra-party polls. An ECP member sought a clarification from the counsel, asking “Are you challenging the intra-party polls or the PTI’s constitution.”

The lawyer said PTI’s polls were not transparent. An ECP member asked whether Babar had attempted to obtain nomination papers. Babar’s lawyer responded, stating, “We went to the party’s office and submitted video evidence.” The video showed a delegation of PTI members headed by Akbar S. Babar was shown on multimedia visiting the PTI Central Secretariat on December 1, 2023, on the eve of intra-party elections after the ECP member sought proof of their visit to the PTI offices for the election. In the video, the PTI in charge of the PTI Central Secretariat was seen expressing his helplessness in providing the nomination papers, voter lists, and rules and regulations of the intra-party election as none existed.

One after the other, the complainants and their counsels expressed their intention and legal right to participate in the intra-party election which was denied to them. They demanded that the intra-party elections held on December 2, should be declared null and void as the entire exercise was mere ‘selection’ and not ‘election.’

During the proceedings, it was pointed out to the ECP bench that PTI leaders who have absconded from law and some in jail were able to acquire and file the nomination papers whereas ordinary members were denied this opportunity. To this, when a member of the Commission inquired if it was legal to complete and submit nomination papers while in jail without prior permission of the jail authorities, the counsel responded in the negative. Babar’s counsel implored the commission to declare the PTI’s polls null and void and to mandate a fresh conduct of the elections. “We have also provided video evidence regarding the party’s polls.”

He pleaded that the Constitution provides ample authority to the Election Commission of Pakistan to proactively monitor intra-party elections and asked the ECP to allow PTI to conduct another intra-party election under neutral monitors. The ECP member from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Justice (retd) Ikramullah Khan, who had drafted the ECP order of November 23, 2023, responded that the Commission has already been lenient with PTI and afforded the party a last chance to conduct a transparent intra-party election in their order of November 23 and now the time has come to enforce the law. He insisted that under the law elections could not be conducted multiple times, emphasising that they were bound to occur only once. The proceedings concluded with the Chief Election Commissioner ordering the issuance of notices to all complainants and PTI for a regular hearing of the case on December 12.

Later, talking to the media outside the ECP, PTI founding member said it is high time that the charade of holding rigged and manipulated intra-party elections came to an end. This, he insisted, is the only way forward for democracy otherwise, political parties are mere tools for individuals and families to climb to power.

Babar criticized the PTI lawyers for backing a completely fraudulent intra-party election process that has badly damaged their democratic credentials. After outsourcing the party to ‘ATM’ and what he called as constituency politicians, now PTI is being outsourced to lawyers to save its founding chairman from legal challenges.

Following the hearing, some protesters gathered outside of the Election Commission. They were carrying placards, inscribed slogans calling for the holding of the PTI’s intra-party polls afresh. They wanted to force their way into the premises but the police prevented them from doing so. While chanting slogans, they called the recent intra-party elections fake and unacceptable and wanted re-elections.

Reacting to the protest outside the commission, PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub claimed that the protesters belonged to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which had nothing to do with his party’s elections.

“Someone should ask them if you people held any protest on the election of PML-N darling League,” Omar Ayub said.

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