ECP assures PTI of ‘level playing field’ for elections

PTI spokesperson Shoaib Shaeen (centre) addressing a press conference in Islamabad, on December 22, 2023, in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/GeoNews
  • “Prima facie correct,” SC on PTI’s concerns of level-playing field.
  • Apex court directs the ECP to address PTI’s concerns.
  • Electoral body to announce verdict on PTI’s intra-party polls today.

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) braces for the all-important verdict of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on its intra-party polls, the party said Friday that it has been “assured of a level playing field” in the wake of the upcoming February 8 polls.

The statement comes after a PTI delegation held a meeting with the top electoral body on the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) after the party had moved the apex court seeking a level-playing field for the upcoming polls.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad after the meeting, PTI spokesperson Shoaib Shaheen said that Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and other officials, taking cognisance of their concerns, have reassured the party that returning officers (ROs) and police officers who have tried to cause problems for the party “will be replaced soon”.

Earlier in the day, the apex court, while observing PTI’s allegations of denial of the level-playing as “prima facie correct”, directed the ECP representative to meet the party’s counsels to address the party’s concerns in this regard.

During the hearing today, the use of Maintenance of Public Order (MPO)  to arrest PTI leaders also came under discussion with Shaheen contending that orders under the said legal provision were still being issued despite the issuance of the election schedule.

Neither the PTI candidates were being provided with the nomination papers, nor they were allowed to submit them, he noted.

At this, the acting chief justice Sardar Tariq Masood inquired why the ECP was not taking any steps to stop the issuance of the MPO orders and directed the electoral body to address all of the PTI’s complaints.

It is to be noted that the top electoral body, acting on the directions of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), is set to announce its decision on the issue of PTI’s intra-party polls and allocation of the party’s “bat” symbol for the upcoming general elections.

On December 2, the party held intra-party polls which saw Barrister Gohar Khan replacing PTI founder Imran Khan as the new party chairman.

However, the polls were marred by allegations of irregularities with the party’s founding member Akbar S Babar — along with others — moving the ECP against “fraudulent” intra-party polls.

Separately, the top electoral body had also sought PTI’s response over the intra-party elections allegedly not being in line with the Election Act 2017 and the party’s own constitution.

The PTI had moved the PHC against the ECP’s notice citing concerns that the party was being subjected to “discrimination” and that the ECP’s notice not only puts the party at risk of losing its electoral symbol but also jeopardises PTI’s participation in the upcoming polls —owing to the December 22 (today) deadline for filing of nomination papers, which since then has been extended till December 24.

The two-member PHC bench comprising Justice SM Attiq Shah and Justice Shakil had then directed the ECP to announce its verdict on PTI’s intra-party polls by December 22 (today).

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