Breaking: PHC restores PTI’s electoral symbol, suspends ECP order

Breaking: PHC restores PTI's electoral symbol, suspends ECP order

PESHAWAR: In a major legal victory for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Peshawar High Court (PHC) suspended the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) order, restoring the party’s iconic election symbol — “bat” — till a final decision on the petition.

While announcing a verdict reserved on PTI’s petition challenging the Election Commission’s order declaring the intra-party polls as “illegal”, the court stated that a double bench will hear the matter after winter vacations.

The electoral body on December 22, stripped the party of its iconic “bat’” symbol — a sign that depicts its founder, Imran Khan’s former life of cricket, in a decision on former PTI leader Akbar S Babar’s petition challenging the intra-party elections to be in line with the rules.

During today’s hearing, 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.

The party had named the ECP and those who challenged the party elections as respondents in its plea filed today with a request for an urgent hearing of the matter.

PTI praises PHC decision
Reacting to the development, PTI’s Barrister Gohar Ali Khan said the PHC’s ruling “put the final nail in conspirators’ coffin”.

He said that the conspiracies against the PTI failed after the PHC ruling today.

“The PTI was being cornered and the suspension of the ECP’s verdict was necessary,” he added.

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He said that the judiciary has not only restored the election symbol but it also regained the confidence of the nation. The court has reviewed the entire set of regulations and suspended the ECP’s order, he added.

He 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.

Barrister Khan also expressed hopes that the ECP order declaring the PTI’s intra-party polls and election symbol will be nullified in the next hearing.

Speaking to the media after the hearing, PTI’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar welcomed the PHC’s verdict, saying that the high court upheld the ritual of justice.

“The electoral symbol is the identity and a fundamental right of a political party “, he said, adding that the court ruled that the PTI can continue its election campaign with “bat” as its symbol.

He said that the suspension of the electoral body’s decision was crucial.

“I don’t want to speak against the ECP, but it seems like the commission is against the PTI,” Barrister Zafar said, calling on the electoral body for a free and fair election.

It may be noted that the hearing will resume days ahead of the final date for the allotment of electoral symbols, which is January 13.

The hearing

At the hearing’s outset, PTI lawyer Ali Zafar said the PTI was given 20 days for holding elections and it held internal party elections on December 3 in Peshawar.

The ECP admitted the veracity of the intra-party elections and issued a certificate to the party, he said.

The PTI counsel said then the ECP withdrew the electoral symbol saying the one who conducted the elections was not the right person. Hence, it invalidated the elections raising objection on the election commissioner, he added.

“The ECP’s order is illegal and unconstitutional,” he argued, adding that since their symbol was withdrawn they could not participate in the polls as a political party, hence they would also lose the reserved seats which were divided among political parties.

He said a ‘symbol case’ verdict of the Surpeme Court was present for reference. He said the Article 17 of the Constitution stated that everyone had the right to form association and union and the union and association had the right to elect their officials. The ECP questioned how the chief election commissioner was appointed by the general secretary, he said.

Barrister Zafar said as per the apex court the election symbol was a crucial part of Article 17. The ECP did not have the authority to question election of party officials, he said. Hence, the commission could not annul the party elections, he said adding that if the electoral authority was given this right then it would be violation of the Article 17.

The petition stated that the ECP did not have the authority to decide the procedure for intra-party elections. The complainant who challenged the intra-party polls was not a party member, it added.

“The ECP withdrew the electoral symbol ‘bat’,” it read asking the court to form a bench comprising senior judges and hear the plea on Tuesday (today).

The PTI prayed to the court to hold and declare that the impugned order is without jurisdiction, without lawful authority and illegal and as a consequence, thereof, set it aside forthwith.

The PTI also pleaded to hold and declare the proceedings by ECP to question the validity of the IPEs on the basis of any objections filed by any persons were coram non judice, illegal and without lawful authority.

“…find and declare that ‘election symbol’ has been illegal and unlawfully been withdrawn which is, inter alia, violation of fundamental rights of the petitioners including Article 17 and Article 25 of the constitution.”

The PTI asked the court to direct the ECP forthwith to “publish the certificates of PTI on its website of ECP as required by 209 (3)” in the interest of justice and to restore its election symbol.

In the wake of PTI’s intra-party elections, held on December 2, ex-PTI member Akbar S Babar had refused to accept the polls and moved the electoral authority against it.

Following the Election Commission’s verdict that the polls were not in line with the rules, the party not only had its symbol taken away, but it was also left without a chairman — as the p