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Pakistan: Imran Khan's PTI gets 'bat' electoral symbol back after high court suspends ECP order

Last week, the ECP revoked the PTI's claim on its iconic 'bat' symbol, ahead of the general elections scheduled on February 8. The Peshawar HC on Tuesday suspended the ECP order and said that the symbol would be restored till another bench reaches a final decision after the winter vacations.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: December 26, 2023 20:59 IST
The official 'bat' symbol shared by the Pakistan
Image Source : PTI/X The official 'bat' symbol shared by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) after the verdict.

In a major victory for incarcerated former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday suspended the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) declaration of PTI's intra-party polls as 'unconstitutional' and the revocation of the party's 'bat' electoral system. The court said that the party's election symbol will be restored in a final decision on the petition.

Last week, the ECP revoked the party's claim on its iconic 'bat' electoral symbol, ahead of the general elections scheduled on February 8. “It is held that PTI has not complied with our directions rendered therein order dated 23rd November, 2023 and failed to hold intra-party election in accordance with PTI prevailing Constitution, 2019 and Election Act, 2017, and Election Rules, 2017,” the ECP said in its 11-page order.

It also rejected a certificate and form by newly-appointed party chairman Gohar Khan who replaced the incarcerated ex-PM recently and declared the PTI ineligible to obtain an electoral symbol under the Elections Act, 2017. It said that PTI never submitted any record of any competent authority to exercise the intra-party elections.

What did the court say?

However, the PHC on Tuesday suspended the ECP order, restoring the party's symbol till a final decision on the petition is reached. The court said that a double bench will hear the matter after winter vacations, according to Geo News.

PHC's Justice Kamran Hayat Miankhel remarked that the ECP would have to allot the electoral symbol to PTI as it can’t be revoked after the issuance of the election schedule. Reacting to the development, PTI's Barrister Gohar Ali Khan said the PHC's ruling "put the final nail in conspirators' coffin".

"The PTI was being cornered and the suspension of the ECP's verdict was necessary," he said, adding that the court has not only restored the election symbol but also regained the confidence of the nation. Gohar urged the ECP to immediately publish the certificate of the PTI on its website in the interest of justice to restore its election symbol and take effective steps to hold a fair election.

PTI counsel Barrister Ali Zafar argued the election symbol was the “life” of any party and a basic constitutional right of the organisation and its workers, supporters and voters, according to Dawn. He also accused of ECP of acting as if it was an “opponent” of the PTI instead of a just arbitrator. 

“The way lawyers from different parties were arguing in courts today, it seemed as if they were collaborating against PTI. One should not get this perspective, they should stay independent” he said.

ECP's previous ruling

Meanwhile, the ECP took to X on Monday to say that it did not offer the ‘bat’ electoral symbol to anyone else, including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Parliamentarians Chairman Pervez Khattak. This comes after Khattak stirred controversy by claiming that the bat symbol was “offered” to him.

Meanwhile, experts have criticised both the poll watchdog as well as the former ruling party for what they called their contradictory behaviour. Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) head Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said that the PTI should have been more careful about its intra-party polls, while also criticising the electoral watchdog for not treating all parties even-handedly.

This is the second time in less than a month that the ECP has rejected the PTI's intra-party polls, ruling on November 23 that the previous elections held last year were controversial and objectionable. The PTI 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.

In case a party fails to obtain an election symbol through judicial intervention, its candidates have to contest for the national and provincial assemblies’ seats as independents. In that case, it would not be possible for them to join the PTI, even after winning the elections, because they can only join a party duly enlisted with the ECP. 

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