In a surprising development, former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided not to contest as the chairman for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the upcoming intra-party polls and has picked his close aide Barrister Gohar Khan for the post to contest in his place, announced PTI's senior leader Barrister Ali Zafar on Wednesday.
Zafar said that Imran did not want to give the Election Commission of Pakistan any excuse for not giving the 'bat' symbol for the upcoming general elections, rejecting the nomination of candidates or for not participating in the election, reported Dawn.
The statement came a day after confusion prevailed after PTI refuted a statement by one of its leaders claiming that Imran would not contest for the post of chairman in the upcoming elections.
A temporary arrangement
Zafar claimed that Imran had declined to contest for the post until the Toshakhana corruption case, in which the current PTI chief was convicted, was legally dealt with. Zafar said that while Imran's sentence was suspended, a final decision was not yet made.
Gohar's nomination for PTI chairman was described by Zafar as an appropriate pick for a "temporary arrangement", saying that Imran will contest the intra-party polls until the Toshakhana case is decided. Gohar was picked as the 'caretaker chairman' as all other prominent leaders of the party considered were appointed to permanent positions.
"PTI is Imran Khan and Imran Khan is PTI. PTI is nothing without Imran Khan. It doesn’t matter if you’re the chairman on paper. The leader, and the continuous leader, is Imran Khan sahib," said Zafar, while criticising ECP's "illegal and unconstitutional" order on intra-party polls.
Meanwhile, Gohar responded by saying that Imran Khan would remain the party's chairman. "Khan sahib was, is and will remain the chairman... I will carry out my responsibility till Khan returns," he said, while thanking the cricketer-turned-politician.
"With his nomination, you will realise that this is not a minus-one formula, that this is not a coup. He is Imran Khan’s own nominee and is appropriate for the temporary arrangement we are doing," he said.
PTI's intra-party polls
The imprisoned ex-PM's party is set to conduct fresh intra-party elections within 20 days, as per the time frame given by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), to retain its 'bat' symbol. The electoral body ruled on November 23 that PTI's previous intra-party polls held last year were controversial and objectionable.
In a reserved verdict announced on Thursday, the ECP observed that the PTI failed to hold free and fair intra-party elections. "PTI's intra-party elections cannot be accepted,” the verdict said. The party held the election on June 10, 2022, but the ECP rejected it, saying that the party had amended its Constitution two days before holding the polls.
In August, the electoral body gave the PTI a final warning to hold the elections or it could be declared ineligible to obtain an election symbol. The PTI elections were due on June 13, 2021, but an extension was granted by the ECP.