Electoral symbol can’t be revoked after issuance of poll schedule: PHC judge

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

PESHAWAR: Justice Kamran Hayat Miankhel of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Tuesday remarked that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would have to allot the electoral symbol to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as it can’t be revoked after the issuance of the election schedule.

The PHC judge’s remarks came during the hearing of PTI’s petition challenging the Election Commission’s order declaring the intra-party polls as “illegal”. It had also revoked the party’s iconic election symbol — “bat”.

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.

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“The ECP’s order is illegal and unconstitutional,” he argued, adding that since their symbol was withdrawn they could not participate in the polls as a political party, hence they would also lose the reserved seats which were divided among political parties.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

Petition

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 polls declaring Barrister Gohar Khan as chairman were ruled illegal.

Talking about the decision last week, Gohar had lambasted the ECP for stripping the party of its bat symbol but hoped that the courts would back the PTI’s plea for its restoration.

“[PTI’s] electoral symbol will be restored,” hoped Gohar, who is also a lawyer by profession.

Political analyst Mazhar Abbas had told Geo.tv that the election commission has “never” declared any political party’s internal polls unlawful, noting that it seems like the PTI is “under attack”.

This is not the only pressing matter for the PTI. Its former chairman, Imran Khan, is behind bars and he is the main driving force behind the party’s votes.

Although he was granted bail in a cipher-related case last week by the Supreme Court, the PTI founder was arrested in two other cases before that and his release remains uncertain.

Moreover, since he was convicted in a corruption case, he has been barred from contesting elections for a period of five years. His sentence is suspended, but isn’t overturned so far.