PTI moves SC to reclaim ‘bat’ electoral symbol The PHC had accepted the commission’s review plea and decided that the high court’s interim order

PTI moves SC to reclaim ‘bat’ electoral symbol

ECP, Akbar S. Babar & 13 others have been made party in the petition

ISLAMABAD  (   Web News )

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) decision to restore an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ruling revoking the party’s ‘bat’ electoral symbol over discrepancies in holding intra-party elections.

On December 22, the ECP had stripped the party of its electoral symbol for the February 8 election, saying that it had had failed to hold intra-party polls — which saw Barrister Gohar Ali Khan becoming the PTI chairman — in accordance with its prevailing constitution and election laws.

The PTI had approached the PHC against the decision of the ECP and on Dec 26, a single-member bench of the high court ordered a temporary suspension of the ECP’s decision, instructing the commission to publish PTI’s intra-party poll certificate on its website and restore the party’s election symbol ‘bat’. That order had to remain in effect till Jan 9.

Subsequently, the ECP had filed an intra-court appeal in the PHC against the verdict. The commission’s lawyers argued that the court had overstepped its jurisdiction by suspending the commission’s declaration on PTI’s intra-party polls and the subsequent revocation of its election symbol.

A day earlier, the PHC had accepted the commission’s review plea and decided that the high court’s interim order on Dec 26 was an “ex parte order” as the same was passed without providing any opportunity for a hearing to the commission.

“Under the election laws the whole exercise of holding and conducting an election i.e. right from the issuance of notification of holding an election till the publication of names of the successful; candidates in the official gazette, is a time-bound exercise, therefore, the said order has prima facie created hindrance in the smooth process of the election which is to be conducted by the ECP […] on the instant 8th of February,” the order said.

“In view of the above, the interim order of this court passed in favour of the writ petitioner/ PTI is hereby recalled/vacated and consequently the ECP is directed to proceed with the election process as per its constitutional mandate as well as various orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan passed in respect of the ensuing election and it shall ensure to conduct and hold free, fair and transparent election,” it added.

The court further pronounced that the grievance of the petitioner as agitated in the main writ petition was to be considered and finally adjudicated upon by this court on the date fixed (Jan 9). It ruled that the said interim order, prima facie, amounted to the grant of final relief for all the legal, factual and practical purposes.

“While passing the said order, an aspect of its effectiveness beyond the territorial jurisdiction of this court was not taken into consideration,” the order said.

The petition filed by the PTI in the top court on Thursday, named the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar and 13 others, who had approached the electoral watchdog against the party’s intra-party polls, as respondents.

The plea argued that the interim relief originally granted by the PHC was given after hearing the ECP, which was reflected in the court’s Dec 26 order, therefore yesterday’s PHC verdict was “not sustainable”.

The plea said that there were 227 reserved seats and without the interim relief order, nomination forms could not have been filed by the candidates contesting for these seats. It further argued that the relief granted by the PHC was not “final” and the order was only operative till Jan 9. It said that the court had not disposed of the entire matter, terming yesterday’s verdict “misconceived”.

It contended that the high court’s jurisdiction extended to examining the validity of the orders passed by the ECP. “If territorial effectiveness or an order of the High Court is to be seen as observed by the learned single judge, then in every case one will have to [approach] all five high court and [have] all high courts to pass the same order for it be implemented all over Pakistan,” it said.

It said that the ECP did not have the jurisdiction to challenge the “internal appointments” of PTI officials or set aside the party’s intra-party elections and declare them void. The petition said the ECP was not a “court of law”, reiterating that it could not question the appointments made by a political party or examine the validity of intra-party polls.

The petition said that “perusal of Election Act 2017 showed that political parties are fully empowered to run their affairs and no role of interference of ECP has been envisaged in these provisions at all”.

“That it is vehemently submitted that PTI has been discriminated against all other political parties who follow less onerous political processes of holding intra-party elections in accordance with their own constitutions,” it said.

The plea further contended that by denying the PTI its election symbol, the election commission had made the party “dysfunctional and has violated Article 17 of the Constitution”.

It said that the right to contest an election under a common symbol could not be taken away, even by the ECP. The petition termed the PHC’s Wednesday order as “too harsh, irrational and unreasonable to be sustained”.

“It is therefore most respectfully prayed that this court may kindly be pleased to grant leave to appeal against the impugned order, set the same aside and restore the interim relief in the interest of justice,” it added.

Separately, PTI leader Barrister Gohar Ali Khan said all parties have a “Plan B” but party’s primary objective was to retain its ‘bat’ symbol.

“Every party has a plan B but our efforts are to get the ‘bat’ symbol back, we have requested that we get a common symbol,” he said while speaking to the media outside the apex court. He said that the party wanted a common symbol.

“It is an urgent matter, allotment of a symbol is necessary. For a political party to not have a common symbol is goes against that its resolution,” Gohar.

“To make a party dysfunctional is to go against the Constitution, “ he added.

“If people fought independently and they are not bound by floor crossing, then whoever wins then those individuals will win for the time being but the system would lose,” he added.

“A country cannot progress if you do not have a strong state,” he said, reiterating PTI’s request for a level playing field.

Speaking to the media in Rawalpindi, PTI leader Latif Khosa said that the electoral watchdog had become a “facilitator” of sorts, due to which the PHC’s interim relief was revoked.

He said that such tactics demonstrated that the party’s political opponents were not prepared to face it in the electoral battlefield and were engaging in conspiracies.

“Whether we get the ‘bat’ symbol or not, the PTI as a party will contest [the polls] and it will do so on one symbol,” he said. Khosa said that PTI founder Imran Khan was bent on “serving the nation” and giving them their rights once he was released from jail.