ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday cautioned Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and his aides from skipping the next hearing of a contempt case, warning them of ex parte proceedings in the matter.
A four-member bench of the electoral authority is conducting contempt proceedings against the PTI leaders.
Last year in August, the ECP issued a contempt notice to the PTI leaders for insulting the commission and its chief during various public meetings, press conferences, and several interviews.
According to the notice, these PTI politicians face the charges of passing unparliamentary, intemperate, and contemptuous remarks against ECP.
In a rare move, the Election Commission on January 10 sent out bailable arrest warrants for the former premier and federal ministers, directing them to ensure their presence on today's hearing (January 17).
However, on Monday, the Lahore High Court (LHC) suspended the arrest warrants on the PTI leaders' plea, but directed the ECP to continue contempt proceedings.
ECP's warning against skipping the next hearing came as none of the three PTI leaders involved in the case appeared before the bench on this hearing either.
At the outset of the hearing, ECP's Balochistan member asked where were Khan, Asad Umar, and Fawad Chaudhary.
In response, Advocate Faisal Chaudhry's assistant told the ECP panel that the PTI leaders and their counsel could not make it to the hearing because they had to attend the former president of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Latif Afridi's funeral in Peshawar.
ECP's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa member said the high court had suspended their arrest warrants but did not exempt them from attending the proceedings, adding that they did not file an exemption request either.
The electoral body's Sindh member Nisar Durrani said that the ECP will hold ex parte proceedings and announce the verdict if the PTI leaders skip the next hearing.
The ECP panel adjourned the hearing until January 24.
On Monday, the LHC Rawalpindi Bench suspended the PTI leaders' bailable arrest warrants issued by the ECP.
Even though the court suspended the warrants, it directed the ECP to carry on with its contempt proceedings against the PTI leaders.
Last week, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, immediately after the ECP's decision, announced he would challenge the warrants in the high court and file a contempt plea against ECP.
During the hearing, the court remarked "PTI seeks relief from the judiciary but targets them in the media".
"Targeting the judiciary in the media is contempt of court. If Fawad Chaudhry targets the courts in the media again, contempt of court proceedings will be launched," warned the court.
Justice Khan remarked that Fawad during an interview with an international channel laid the blame for corruption on the judiciary. He also told the PTI leader's lawyer that the court was granting him relief right now but he should tell his client to refrain from making contemptuous remarks against the courts.
"Enough is enough, the court will no longer show restraint," remarked Justice Khan.
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