ECP strips PTI off its ‘bat’ symbol ahead of general elections

Election organising authority announces reserved verdict, says party’s polls were unlawful

Supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan attend an anti-government rally in Rawalpindi on November 26, 2022. — AFP
  • In verdict, election commission says PTI’s polls unlawful.
  • It says elections not in line with party’s own constitution.
  • Barrister Gohar Khan no more PTI chairman after order.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Friday evening stripped off the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of its iconic ‘bat’ symbol — a sign that depicts its founder, Imran Khan’s former life of cricket.

Announcing its reserved verdict, a five-member ECP bench — headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja — declared PTI’s intra-party elections unlawful. 

The 11-page order was announced on the petition of Akbar S Babar, a former PTI member, who claimed that the PTI did not stage the elections in line with the rules.

This serves as a major blow to the former ruling party as it gears up for the February 8 elections, with its founder — PTI’s voter driving force — already behind bars for months — and his release does not seem soon.

“The PTI has not complied with our directions […] and failed to hold the intra-party election in accordance with the PTI prevailing Constitution, 2019, and Election Act, 2017, and Election Rules, 2017,” the order read.

Geo News reported that with the elections being declared unlawful, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, who replaced Khan as the party’s chairman, is no longer the party’s top head.

The party also seems to be running out of time as the extended deadline for submitting the nomination papers expires on Sunday and the party only has one day (Saturday) to move courts against the ECP’s decision.

The PTI has complained repeatedly that it is being targeted and not being given a level-playing field, but today, just hours before the order, the ECP had assured the party it would be provided equal opportunities. 

Political analyst Mazhar Abbas told that the election commission has “never” declared any political party’s internal polls unlawful, noting that it seems like the PTI is “under attack”.

“This has never happened. Symbols have been taken back [..] but this is the first time that the ECP has given an order on a party’s intra-party polls,” Abbas said, adding that parties have opted for alternate methods, as it happened in 1985’s polls, so the PTI would also have to come up with a strategy.

He added that with the power of social media, if PTI’s candidates run as independents, the party could disseminate information about their symbols and the names of the people. “But one thing is for sure: This election is getting harder and harder for the PTI.”

In response, the PTI has announced knocking at the door of the high court to seek relief — and the decision will have to be on Saturday as if the deadline expires, there’s nothing that they can do to get the bat symbol.

“We will not boycott the elections […] we have a plan B,” Barrister Gohar told Geo News, without elaborating what the strategy was, as his party remains under immense pressure after back-to-back challenges.

Kanwar Muhammad Dilshad, a former secretary of the ECP, told Geo News that following the commission’s order, PTI’s members would have to run in the general elections as independent candidates.

“Since the PTI’s intra-party elections were rejected for the third time, its [PTI’s] candidates will have to contest the polls independently,” he said.

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