Imran takes canvassing ban to IHC

Court asked to quash ECP notifications barring lawmakers from election campaigning


Photo: Rizwan Shehzad May 04, 2017
PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against notifications from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that restrict lawmakers and party heads from running election campaigns.

The ECP on April 16, 2015, issued notifications to restrict president, prime minister, chief ministers, state ministers, governors and advisers from visiting any area of any constituency or giving any subscription or donation is such constituencies.

On May 7, 2015, the notification was further amended, which in addition to the aforementioned government officials, members of the national and provincial assemblies [MNAs and MPAs] were also included. Later, the poll body issued another such notification on September 16, 2015.

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Khan, a member of the National Assembly from NA-56 (Rawalpindi), filed a petition in the IHC on Tuesday through his counsel Babar Awan. He has made the ECP and the director general (elections) of the ECP respondents in the case.

The counsel said the petitioner, being the PTI chairman, heads different movements of by-elections and other poll-related activities throughout the country, which is a right guaranteed under Article 16 of the Constitution.

“Imran and his party have a record of holding peaceful and unarmed rallies and sit-ins for a period of 126 days,” states the petition, adding, “Facts prove that the petitioner and his party believe in the supremacy of law and constitution.”

“To the utter surprise of the petitioner and other democratic forces in the country, a number of notifications were issued by the ECP that abridged fundamental rights,” it states.

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“For all practical purposes and intents, it is the opposition which is put at disadvantage by the ECP and the poll body's move has put the men in power in clear advantage,” the petition contends.

Khan’s counsel maintained that the inclusion of MNAs and MPAs with president, premier and others showed mala fide intention on the part of the election commission. “By no stretch of imagination, MNAs and MPAs, who do not hold any official or governmental position, can fall within the same category or class of those who are in power.”

Babar said it was obvious from the fact that the ECP had only the petitioner -- Imran Khan -- in mind while issuing such a notification because he was, perhaps, the only MNA who, having no governmental or official position would matter the most with voters during any by-elections.

He accused the ECP of abuse of authority, saying the poll body had issued a person-specific notification on February 6, adding it was an act with an intent to keep only the petitioner out of the election campaign of by-elections.

“Keeping men in power out of the election campaign is understandable,” he said and added, “But MNAs and MPAs do not exercise any such power and financial control and the decision to exclude them from campaigning has no logic, reason and rationale behind it.”

He said preventing the petitioner, being the head of a party, from campaigning and addressing public meetings in the area of constituencies where by-elections will take place was a violation of Articles 16, 17 and 19 of the Constitution.

He prayed to the court to declare the notification of May 7, 2015, September 16, 2015, and February 6, 2017, along with any other consequential proceedings pending before the ECP as illegal, without lawful authority and of no legal effect.

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