PTI chief Imran Khan filed a plea in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Saturday, challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to disqualify him over what the electoral watchdog cited as his failure to properly account for monetary proceeds from the sale of Toshakhana gifts while he was the prime minister.
The matter will be taken up by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah on October 24 (Monday).
The Toshakhana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.
According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
A reference alleging that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana and proceeds from their reported sales was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition in August, and the ECP concluded on Friday (yesterday) that the former premier had indeed made “false statement and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts — a ruling that prompted widespread protests by the PTI.
The watchdog’s order said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Today, Imran’s lawyer, Barrister Ali Zafar, filed on his behalf a writ petition in the IHC, praying that the order be declared “against the settled principles of law” on Article 63.
The plea further urged the court to declare the ECP’s order “misconceived” and set it aside.
Imran also sought a court declaration stating that the ECP lacked the jurisdiction to decide “any questions of ‘corrupt practices and disqualification’” under the Election Act and Election Rules, 2017.
Moreover, his plea read: “Declare that the [disqualification] reference itself is incompetent, illegal, unlawful and without lawful authority, mala fide and devoid of force and in the circumstances of the instant case, declare it null and void in the interest of justice.”
In the meanwhile, the plea added, the court may kindly suspend the operation of the ECP’s order and restrain further proceedings by the ECP or its behest till its disposal.
The ECP, the National Assembly (NA) speaker and NA secretary and multiple members of the lower house of parliament have been nominated as respondents in the plea.
Along with this plea, Barrister Zafar also submitted an application seeking the hearing of the case today. However, the court rejected his plea and scheduled the hearing for October 24.
Later, Barrister Zafar confirmed that the plea had been fixed for Monday and expressed the hope that the ECP’s decision would be overturned.
‘Establishment’s thoughtlessness’ led to today’s ‘political crisis’: Fawad
After the petition was filed, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry blamed the “establishment’s thoughtlessness” for the “political crisis” that the country was witnessing at present, adding that the responsibility to mend the lay with both politicians and institutions.
He expressed these views while answering a question regarding the ECP’s decision to disqualify Imran.
“The worsened situation in Pakistan, the political crisis that has been created, wouldn’t have emerged in the first place had the establishment’s role — about which it is now being said that it will remain apolitical — remained apolitical earlier,” Chaudhry told journalists in Islamabad when asked whether he believed the ECP was facing pressure from anyone.
The PTI leader went on to say there was a need to realise that time for decisions being made behind closed doors by “unelected institutions” had passed.
He said had there been democracy in Pakistan, elections would have been held after the PTI’s resounding victory in Punjab by-polls in July and by-elections on NA seats earlier this month. “But unfortunately, conspiracies continue. They [continue] behind closed doors.”
Chaudhry also complained that the order for Imran’s disqualification had not been released by the ECP yet. “If you do not have the order, what did you announce yesterday?” he questioned.
Moreover, pointed out, the order did not bear the signatures of ECP members. “And law the clearly says that if the order doesn’t have the signatures of [all] members, it is not a judgement then,” he added.
He alleged that the order was being amended in line with the ruling government’s wishes.
“What will be a bigger dishonesty by an institution,” he remarked, calling on the courts to decide references filed by the PTI against ECP members, including Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.
The PTI leader then outlined what he implied were unfair decisions and measures taken in favour of members of the ruling coalition in the recent past, saying: “It clearly seems that we will have to go for a revolution and prepare for a long march. The chance we gave, it seems the government and those associated with it are wasting it, and the people of Pakistan will no other way than to come out to save the Constitution.”
Chaudhry added that a call for the long-anticipated long march by the PTI could come at any time.
Separately, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar expressed hope that the ECP’s verdict would be rejected by the IHC at Monday’s hearing.
“The decision is illegal and unconstitutional but not unexpected because the ECP has become a political ally of the PDM and its decisions are not taken on a legal basis but [are aimed at] politically benefitting the government and hurting the PTI,” he alleged while speaking to the media in Islamabad.
Umar said the ECP had done nothing but “waste ink” while issuing the decision, adding that the nation had already rejected it in yesterday’s protests and so, too, would the IHC.
He rejected any negotiations with the government, saying that the PTI would only talk with it on the subject of fresh new elections and could then possibly listen to other topics as well.