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Pakistan: 'Terrorist party cannot be allotted...', says Maryam Nawaz on PTI's 'bat' symbol row

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Saturday rejected an attempt by former prime minister Imran Khan's PTI to retain its traditional electoral symbol of a cricket bat. The PTI founder alleged there were efforts to eliminate the PTI under the covert 'London Plan', referring to Nawaz Sharif's exile.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Islamabad Published on: January 16, 2024 13:46 IST
Pakistan elections, Maryam Nawaz, PML-N
Image Source : PTI Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief organiser and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif on Monday kick-started a highly-anticipated election campaign ahead of the February 8 polls by targeting incarcerated ex-PM Imran Khan and the controversy surrounding Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) 'bat' election symbol.

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Saturday rejected an attempt by former prime minister Imran Khan's party to retain its traditional electoral symbol of a cricket bat, in the latest setback for the jailed leader ahead of a general election. A party's electoral symbol on ballot papers is significant for voters to be able to identify its candidates in the South Asian nation of 241 million people, where the majority of the constituencies are in rural areas with low literacy.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had stripped the PTI of the symbol on the technical grounds that it had not held intra-party elections, a prerequisite for any political party to take part in the national election. The party had challenged that ruling in the top court. The election campaign, delayed since November, has been a lackluster race in an uncertain political environment with Khan, 71, jailed and disqualified from contesting.

What did Maryam say?

"A terrorist party cannot be allotted an electoral symbol of a political party," said Maryam while addressing a major rally in Okara two days after the Supreme Court's decision on the election symbol. Taking digs at Imran's party, Maryam told PTI lawyers to properly prepare the cases next time before the apex court and that the law and nation would make decisions, Dawn reported.

"It is not his (Imran Khan) fault as he was used to getting facilitation… Now neither this facilitation is available nor the facilitators remain,” she said, adding that all who wronged her father Nawaz were meeting their fate. Maryam also remarked that PTI should have a 'danda (baton) for a symbol that it allegedly used against the state and military institutions on May 9.

Hitting back at Imran's accusations that Nawaz was "playing the match" with the help of "umpires", the PML-N leader asserted that the PTI founder's umpires were caught while the real umpire is the public who will bring Nawaz, her father, back to power. “Your electoral symbol should be the watch that you stole or the petrol bomb that you hurled on police officials,” she said.

Imran Khan's growing woes

The incarcerated former PM's problems refuse to go away ahead of the much-awaited elections as Imran failed to get any relief from the court to contest next month's general elections. The appellate tribunals of the Lahore High Court (LHC) upheld the returning officers' (ROs) decision to reject the founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party's nomination papers for two National Assembly constituencies in the Punjab province of the country.

His main rival and former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been cleared of all court cases and a lifetime ban from contesting the polls. Analysts say he appears to be the front runner, thanks to what they say is military support, an advantage in a country where army generals mostly decide on the making or breaking of governments. The army says it is apolitical.

After the SC verdict on PTI's electoral symbol, Imran remarked that an “umpire gave a no-ball" and alleged that attempts were made to eliminate the PTI under the covert 'London Plan'. He also demanded that an open trial of the cipher case should be conducted so that the people know the facts.

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.

The only way for the party to get an election symbol is if the superior judiciary declares its intra-party elections valid. With the latest development, erstwhile PTI candidates may be compelled to join other parties without losing their seats under the anti-defection clause

Pakistan general elections

The general elections in Pakistan are scheduled for February 8, with three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif and incarcerated ex-chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan in the fray. While the PML-N remains confident that Nawaz will return as PM, many polls show that Imran and his PTI enjoy widespread popularity.

Notably, the Pakistan National Assembly had 342 seats-- 272 of which are directly elected, 60 are reserved for women and 10 for religious minorities. According to the country's constitution, at least 70 seats reserved for women and religious minorities are allocated to the political parties as per their proportional representation.

After fresh delimitation, the National Assembly (NA) would consist of 336 seats, including 266 general seats, 60 seats reserved for women, and 10 for non-Muslims, a decrease of six seats overall.

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