PTI moves LHC to reclaim ‘cricket bat’

Plea asserts party's right to contest elections without internal polls

Rana Yasif May 29, 2024
The party’s statement shows, that PTI will demonstrate street power along-with grand alliance of opposition parties. PHOTO: FILE


The PTI on Wednesday moved the Lahore High Court seeking its directives to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to allot the party its electoral symbol of the “cricket bat” again.

It argued that a political party could not be deprived of its right to contest an election, particularly by withholding its symbol because of its failure to hold its internal polls.

The petition was filed by PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub, Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan, Information Secretary Raoof Hasan, and other leaders of the party.

They contended that since the 2002 general elections, the PTI had been contesting the polls using the cricket bat symbol, which had now become emblematic of its identity for over two decades.

"In the 2024 general elections, every attempt was made to exclude and handicap [the] PTI’s participation," the petition read.

"This included the snatching of nomination papers, exclusion of candidates and their proposers and seconders from attending scrutiny proceedings, police raids, and heavy-handed actions denying rallies and gatherings. Thousands of PTI workers were also incarcerated.”

The plea stated that later, PTI founding chairman Imran Khan was disqualified, convicted, and incarcerated in a series of controversial trials. It added that the decisions by these trials were currently pending adjudication in appeal and subject to challenge before higher courts.

“His [Imran’s] name and picture became the subject of a de facto ban on television and electronic media. These are all matters of record, and if required, the necessary documents can be filed.”

The petition criticised the ECP, “which is under the constitutional duty to conduct the elections impartially in a manner that was honest, just and fair”, for allegedly singling out the PTI to prevent its participation in the last general polls.

“A prime example of this relates to the matter surrounding [the] PTI’s intra-party elections.”

The plea contended that the PTI had conducted its internal polls three times in the past two years, but they were repeatedly invalidated by the ECP, “which has no jurisdiction to probe, question or adjudicate disputes related to procedural propriety in intra-party elections”.

"Importantly, no other political party has been subjected to such exacting review of its intra-party elections.”

The petition read that the ECP had passed an order declaring that the PTI had failed to hold intra-party elections in accordance with its prevailing constitution and directed it to hold fresh ones within 20 days.

It continued that despite complying and submitting all pertinent documents on December 4, 2023, the ECP raised further reservations on December 7, 2023, delaying the issuance of the party’s electoral symbol of the cricket bat.

The petition pointed out that on December 22, 2023, the ECP declared the PTI’s intra-party elections invalid and withheld its electoral symbol.

It noted that the Peshawar High Court later set aside this decision, but the Supreme Court reversed this ruling on the ECP’s plea, depriving the PTI of its electoral symbol days before the general polls.

“The ECP went one step further and refused to recognise the members of the PTI and candidates … as political party candidates.

Thus, not only were the members of PTI denied of the party symbol, they were also deprived of the right to contest elections as a political party…. All the candidates backed by PTI were recognised by the ECP as ‘independent’ candidates.”

The plea added that after the general elections, the ECP did not allocate reserved seats to the PTI, who then had joined Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

The PTI held another round of intra-party elections on March 3, 2024, complying with all relevant laws and directives. However, the ECP did not issue the required certificate within the stipulated time.

The petition requested the court to declare that under Article 17(2) of the Constitution, a political party could not be deprived of the right to contest elections based on its internal polls.

It argued that withholding the electoral symbol disabled the PTI from functioning as a political party, violating its fundamental rights.

The petition also sought the court’s directives to quash the ECP's April 30, 2024 notice and any proceedings based on it.

It requested the court to permanently restrain the ECP from taking any adverse action against the PTI.
"The PTI prays the court to uphold the fundamental right to contest elections and prevent the ECP from unjustly targeting the party," the petition concluded.


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