Pak EC reserves verdict on plea to bar Khan from heading party

| | islamabad
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Pak EC reserves verdict on plea to bar Khan from heading party

Wednesday, 06 December 2023 | AP | islamabad

Pakistan’s election commission on Tuesday reserved its verdict on a petition seeking to remove former premier Imran Khan as the head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party due to his conviction in the Toshakhana corruption case.

Khan, 71, has been in jail since August 5, when he was arrested after a conviction in the Toshakhana case. He was also disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the same case for failing to disclose the proceeds from the sale of gifts he got from the Toshakhana (state repository).

A petition was filed on October 3 with the top election body to bar him from holding any position within his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Two months later, on December 2, the former-cricketer-turned-politician decided against contesting the ECP-mandated intra-party polls for the post of party chairman due to his disqualification in the Toshakhana case.

The jailed former prime minister had instead handpicked Barrister Gohar Ali Khan to lead the party he founded and other legal challenges earlier this month.

Barrister Gohar was officially elected as the PTI chief unopposed in the intra-party polls held on December 2. On Tuesday, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja, leading a five-member bench, presided over the hearing held at the ECP headquarters in Islamabad.

During Tuesday’s hearing, PTI lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said the petition had become infructuous as the party has elected its new chairman. Stating that they have submitted a record of the intra-party polls to the ECP and the matter should now come to an end, advocate Shaheen also said that if the ECP wanted to hear this matter, then it should club it with a petition being filed by PTI founding member Akbar S Babar against the party’s intra-party polls.

Geo News quoted Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja as saying: “You are giving Khalid Mahmood (petitioner’s lawyer) a chance to file a petition against the new chairman.” Advocate Mahmood also pleaded with the CEC to mention in the order that Khan cannot hold any position in the party due to his conviction. The CEC said they could not comment on the matter as the former PTI chief did not contest intra-party polls. The ECP also directed Khan’s lawyer to submit the record of the PTI’s intra-party polls even as it reserved the verdict on the petition.

As the petitioner’s lawyer pressed Raja to issue orders to ban Khan from holding any office in PTI, the CEC reserved his judgment while concluding the hearing. It is not clear when the verdict will be announced. “Several political parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and others have dubbed the PTI intra-party polls as fake, while PTI founding members raised objections to the process and announced challenging the internal party elections in the ECP,” Geo News said.

In November last year, the ECP found Khan guilty of not submitting accurate details of the gifts he got from the Toshakhana and disqualified him from public office. Later, he was convicted in the same case. Khan is currently jailed at the high-security Adiala prison in Rawalpindi since September 26 in the cipher case for allegedly leaking state secrets and violating the laws of the country.

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