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Sunday February 25, 2024

Gohar replaces Imran as PTI chief in ‘controversial ’intra-party polls

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Barrister Gohar Ali Khan Saturday was elected unopposed as the party chairman

By Bureau report & Mumtaz Alvi
December 03, 2023
PTI Chairman Gohar Khan is seen in this photograph outside the Islamabad High Court on August 8, 2023. — AFP
PTI Chairman Gohar Khan is seen in this photograph outside the Islamabad High Court on August 8, 2023. — AFP

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: In what has already been termed as controversial intra-party elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Barrister Gohar Ali Khan Saturday was elected unopposed as the party chairman.

Former prime minister and founding chairman of the PTI Imran Khan had nominated Gohar Ali Khan as his successor since he could not contest the election due to potential disqualification in the Toshakhana case.

The PTI conducted the intra-party election quickly, withholding details of the election process from the media.

The PTI conducted the elections on the directives of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which had given 20 days to the party on November 23 to meet the legal requirement to qualify for allotment of the election symbol of bat.

Currently, the majority of PTI leaders and former parliamentarians are in hiding, unable to participate in party conventions and election campaign, facing inquiries and investigations by the police and other law enforcement agencies. Speaking to the media in Peshawar, the newly-elected PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar expressed his commitment to assuming responsibilities as Imran Khan’s representative. He thanked Imran Khan for entrusting him with the responsibility of the important post. He said that cases were being made against “our party leaders every day. We did not get the relief from courts that should have been given, and even today more than half of our leadership is underground.”

In a reconciliatory tone, the newly-elected party chairman said his party would fight no one.

Gohar Ali said that since 1960, 175 political parties of Pakistan have been submitting their intra-party elections to the ECP, but no election had been looked into like theirs. He urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa not to return his official car but protect “our rights”.

He vowed to continue to perform responsibilities as the successor and representative of Imran Khan, saying, “This post will remain with me as a trust until Khan Sahib returns. Imran Khan was the chairman, he is still the chairman and will remain the chairman for life.”

Earlier, talking to the media after the election, PTI Chief Election Commissioner Niazullah Niazi announced Barrister Gohar Ali Khan has been elected chairman of the party unopposed. Likewise, he added Omar Ayub was elected unopposed as the central general secretary of the party. Yasmin Rashid has been elected president of PTI Punjab while Munir Ahmed Baloch has been elected provincial president of PTI Balochistan. Ali Amin Gandapur was elected as PTI provincial president from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while Haleem Adil Sheikh was elected as the party’s provincial president from Sindh.

He explained there was a panel of participants in the intra-party elections and all the candidates had been elected unopposed. “Peshawar was the venue of elections and all candidates were elected unopposed as only Gohar-led panel was in the field. No other panel either fielded candidates or raised objections. As a result, the PTI chief election commissioner announced the results,” one senior party member said when approached on phone to get information on the polls.

The newly-elected party chairman visited the party’s Central Secretariat in Islamabad, and was welcomed by PTI’s Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan upon his arrival. The PTI chief election commissioner was also present on the occasion. They prayed for safety, security, development and prosperity of the country.

Meanwhile, PTI founder member Akbar S Babar has announced to challenge the intra-party elections in the ECP. Speaking to a hurriedly-called news conference, Babar alleged that “Today [Saturday] there was a fraud in the intra-party elections of PTI. The Constitution of Pakistan was violated; our fundamental rights were violated and this is a serious matter.” The politician, who fought for about eight years in the ECP a case he had filed in November 2014 against PTI’s alleged irregularities of millions of dollars in foreign funding, called the polls also a violation of the PTI constitution, alleging today it has been proved that these people do not give importance to party workers.

He said their reservation that there was only selection in the polls proved to be true; neither the voters list nor the workers were given the opportunity to submit nomination papers. He alleged that some people sitting in closed rooms were deciding who will lead the party.

“A fraud took place in the name of intra-party elections, which we reject completely. A dark chapter has been written in Pakistan’s politics, more risks will increase for PTI’s election symbol bat and the issue of funding is very serious. We will present the facts before the Election Commission. The ECP should decide according to Constitution and law,” he announced.

Babar said that those who were earlier ‘easy loaded’ due to corruption have now been ‘downloaded’ and that the leaders who have emerged in the form of lawyers do not give importance to workers.

The ECP’s four-member bench, in its order issued on November 23, had declared PTI’s intra-party polls as null and void, and gave the party 20 days to do the needful or be ready to lose bat as its poll symbol.

Reacting to the news conference held by Babar to challenge the intra-party polls, the party’s spokesman retorted that “touts like Akbar S Babar” have been launched as part of a conspiracy to keep the PTI out of the political and electoral process. He claimed Akbar S Babar’s basic membership was terminated from the party 13 years ago after his nefarious intentions were revealed, after which he started a conspiracy against the party.

“The elements trying to sabotage the intra-party elections under a distorted script will get nothing but humiliation. The PTI will successfully cross every milestone moving towards the general elections and InshaAllah will win with two-thirds majority and will rule,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob cast doubts on the fairness of PTI intra-party polls. He said that it did not seem to him that the intra-party polls were held properly. The hurried conduct of intra-party polls will not be good for the PTI, he said, adding that it seems the elections were controversial. Mehboob said that no voters list was issued, adding that Akbar S Babar should have been given an opportunity to contest the polls.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN)’s Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb expressed amazement at the unconventional intra-party elections of the PTI, which resulted in the unanimous election of office bearers within a 15-minute timeframe. Talking to the media on Saturday, she highlighted the unorthodox elements in PTI’s intra-party election process, such as undisclosed venue, lack of participating voters or seconders, proposers, absence of a presiding officer and notable lack of voter lists.

She asserted that PTI’s rapid 15-minute “selection process” aimed to deceive the public, ECP and party members. She expressed regret that numerous leaders were excluded from the entire intra-party election process, lacking a fair playing field. Surprisingly, those who were not provided a level playing field for their party members were demanding the same fairness for their leader. In his reaction to Marriyum Aurangzeb’s statement, the PTI spokesman said her statement was a clear manifestation of the extreme nervousness and fear in the PMLN after seeing that it was writing on the wall that ladla would face a humiliating drubbing in the forthcoming general elections despite striking a secret deal.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party Secretary Information Faisal Karim Kundi said the ECP should take notice of this intra-party elections of PTI. “The ECP should tell whether fugitives were also allowed to contest the election and the commission should check these elections now,” he said.

“The PTI people are saying that there is big rigging. Can a fugitive person contest an election and win? That fugitive person then becomes the president of the province,” he said while addressing a press conference along with PPP’s Media Coordinator Nazir Dhoki, former District Nazim Azizullah Alizai and Secretary General PPP’s Human Right Cell Malika Rizvi.

Kundi said PTI’s intra-party election was heavily rigged and selection took place again. “Is it a level playing field? The intra-party election of PTI is a question mark for everyone,” he said.