The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday issued a notice to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as it took up challenges to its intra-party elections, with petitions claiming the polls were “rigged and fraudulent.”
Last week, the PTI conducted intra-party polls on orders of the ECP in a bid to retain its electoral symbol of a cricket bat, replacing former chairman Imran Khan with Barrister Gohar Khan, who was handpicked by the ex-prime minister. After the announcement of the results, Babar and several other party members filed a petition challenging the “rigged/fraudulent PTI intra-party elections” and seeking the conduct of fresh polls in accordance with the party’s constitution.
On Friday, a five-member commission led by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja took up the petition with Babar and his lawyer appearing before it and arguing that the party had failed to provide any schedule for the polls. “The constitution and the law are very clear about it; hence, I’ve appeared here,” said Babar, with his lawyer arguing that the ECP’s order for fresh polls had called for them to be conducted in accordance with the party’s constitution. However, he said, there was no voter list or formal nomination mechanism and a “man was made chairman behind closed doors.”
Babar’s lawyer said there was no scrutiny of nominations, nor was any list of final candidates displayed. To questions from the ECP on Babar’s status as a member of the PTI, the petitioner said it was intact and had been validated by court. Despite this, he claimed, his client was prevented from securing nomination papers to contest the intra-party polls. Babar then showed the ECP videos of him trying to secure nomination papers, as well as the conduct of the polls. The counsel urged the ECP to declare the PTI’s polls null and void and to mandate a fresh conduct of the elections.
“We have also provided video evidence regarding the party’s polls,” he said. However, one of the ECP members said the law does not permit the electoral body to continue ordering fresh elections and they were bound to occur only once.
After the hearing, the ECP issued a notice to the PTI, seeking its response to the objections raised in the pleas. It then adjourned proceedings until Dec. 12.
During and after the hearing, a small group of protesters—claiming to belong to the PTI—gathered outside the ECP office in Islamabad and demanded the intra-party polls be conducted again.