PTI conducted intra-party polls as per Constitution, PHC told

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PESHAWAR: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) counsel Barrister Ali Zafar Tuesday told the Peshawar High Court (PHC) his party’s elections were conducted according to the Constitution.

“We conducted party elections according to the Constitution,” the lawyer said.

Barrister Zafar’s argument came during the hearing of PTI’s pleas challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision declaring the intra-party election as null and void and seeking restoration of their iconic electoral symbol ‘bat’ — a sign that depicts party’s founder, Imran Khan’s former life of cricket. 

The ECP, he added, declared the party’s elections null and void and asked to hold the election again in 20 days. The lawyer maintained that the party abided by the electoral body’s decision and also provided Form 65.

“The Election Commission said that 14 objections have been received. We said that the objectors want re-election but they are not party members,” he added, further highlighting that the party was given 30 questions pertaining to the matter.

It should be noted that the PTI’s pleas are being heard by a two-member PHC bench consisting of Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Arshad Ali.

The PTI has filed a petition challenging the non-issuance of a certificate by the electoral authority, declaring its intra-party election as null and void. The ECP also revoked the party’s election symbol bat. The PTI had approached the PHC against the decision which had earlier suspended the ECP order.

However, the election watchdog filed a review petition in the high court, which restored the ECP’s earlier order and withdrew the interim relief granted to the PTI.

At the outset of the hearing, the judges expressed displeasure over the absence of PTI counsels Barrister Gohar Khan and Barrister Zafar as they arrived late for the hearing due to fog.

Justice Ijaz also pointed out the absence of other parties in the case. However, Barrister Gohar said that the parties have nothing to do with the case.

Earlier during the hearing today, the court asked why the PTI was insisting on securing the bat as its electoral symbol for the upcoming elections on February 8.

“Why are you insisting on getting bat as an election symbol?” the judge questioned the party’s counsel.

Responding to the judge’s question, the lawyer said that the electoral symbol issued to a certain party will not be given to others.

“The election symbol is the identity of the political party. People are not educated, they will not know which political party they are voting for,” Barrister Zafar said, further informing the court that the party has had bat as its symbol since the last two elections.

He added that PTI will not be able to partake in the polls if a certificate is not issued to them. He also mentioned a Supreme Court judgment pertaining to the election symbol.

The court asked him to submit a copy of the apex court’s judgment.

Barrister Zafar also maintained that the ECP doesn’t have the authority to issue a ban on intra-party elections and cannot question the internal appointments of political parties.

“The PHC can look into the internal appointments of political parties,” he said.

Justice Ijaz Anwar, however, said even the high court has no authority to look into internal appointments of political parties.

ECP, Barrister Zafar added, is a constitutional body but not a court.

“There are several judgments in which it has been said that the Election Commission is not a court of law, Ali Zafar

He earlier informed the court that no objection has been raised on the process of December 2 intra-party elections.

Objections are being raised over those who organised the elections, the lawyer added.

“The Election Commission does not have the authority to declare intra-party elections null and void. Even if the intra-party elections are not held, they cannot take election symbols,” the PTI counsel insisted.

Zafar said the electoral authority cannot interfere in the party’s internal affairs.

“ECP does not have these powers anywhere in the world. It only keeps records,” he argued.

Speaking about intra-party elections, the lawyer said party polls are to be held every five years and the act was amended in 2023. “Earlier, there was no punishment for not holding intra-party elections. Punishment is only given in the form of a fine, not withdrawal of election symbol.”

The counsel maintained that it is not written anywhere that the ECP has powers. “The Election Commission is bound to issue the certificate within seven days.”

Barrister Zafar maintained that the intra-party election is a civil dispute and the ECP cannot look into it.

“The Election Commission has not looked into the intra-party elections of any other party till date,” the lawyer insisted.

Justice Arshad asked the PTI lawyer if there was any opposition candidate for the chairmanship in the intra-party election. The lawyer replied in the negative.

“PTI is being openly discriminated against,” he said while completing his arguments after which the court adjourned the hearing of the case for 30 minutes.