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Sunday February 25, 2024

PTI’s intra-party polls challenged

Babar visited ECP Secretariat, submitted petition titled “Complaint against Rigged/Fraudulent PTI Intra Party Elections”, addressing CEC Raja

December 06, 2023
PTI founding members Akbar S Babar. — Online/File
PTI founding members Akbar S Babar. — Online/File

ISLAMABAD: Founding member and ex-vice-president of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Akbar S Babar Tuesday moved the Election Commission of Pakistan against what he alleged was the rigged recent PTI intra-party polls, pleading for holding the symbol of bat in abeyance, until the entire electoral drill is legally executed again.

Babar visited the Election Commission Secretariat here and submitted a petition titled “Complaint against Rigged/Fraudulent PTI Intra Party Elections”, addressing the Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. After submitting the petition, he talked to media persons and urged for holding the electoral exercise afresh by declaring the recent polls as null and void.

In the petition, a copy of which is available with The News, he contended that in the absence of basic rules of any elections that allow a level playing field to contestants… the entire intra-party election was a mere eyewash and vain attempt to hoodwink the Election Commission of Pakistan. “The fraudulent electoral process disenfranchised PTI members from participating in the intra-party elections in clear violation of the Elections Act 2017, Section 208, subsection (2),” he prayed.

Even representatives of independent organizations such as PILDAT, he pointed out, have expressed serious reservations about the transparency of the party elections.

He said as a member of PTI whose membership was validated by the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Islamabad High Court and who gave the best years of his life in establishing and nurturing PTI as a genuine, democratic and ideological political party of change, “I am left with no option except to seek the intervention of the Election Commission of Pakistan.”

It is pertinent to note that the PTI earlier in the day applied to the Election Commission, urging it not to entertain any petition on its intra-party election as, according to it, Babar was no more a member of the party.

Babar urged the Election Commission to declare the PTI intra-party election purportedly held on December 2, 2023 as ‘null and void’ and without any legal effect and the party be directed to hold fresh intra-party elections as soon as possible.

“Given the chequered history of PTI in conducting transparent intra-party elections as partially documented in the Election Commission of Pakistan’s Order of November 3, 2023, the Commission may appoint independent third-party monitors to review and monitor fresh intra-party PTI elections. And, as long as the PTI does not conduct transparent intra-party elections according to law, its election symbol of bat may be held in abeyance.”

He referred to the Elections Act 2017 Section 208 which governs elections within a political party. Narrating the chronology of events, Babar said the Election Commission passed an order on November 23, 2023, directing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to hold its intra-party election within 20 days and submit its result along with all the required documents, including form 65 in 7 days before the Commission.

Babar said on November 30, 2023, a PTI press release claimed to have completed all arrangements for holding the elections on December 2, 2023. While it announced the appointment of Niazullah Niazi as the PTI Chief Election Commissioner, it did not mention the names of PTI Federal Election Commission nor did it share the election rules and regulations, detailed schedule, nomination timeline and procedure, criteria for acceptance and rejection of nomination papers, scrutiny of nominations and the appeal process if a nomination was rejected.

It also did not specify any process for vote counting and announcement of election results. None of this was also put on the PTI website until the election date of December 2, 2023, he claimed.

“On December 1, 2023 around 4.45 pm, I along with a delegation of PTI members visited the PTI Central Secretariat located in G-8 Sector of Islamabad. The PTI representative (Muhammad Rafiq) present in the Central Secretariat expressed his helplessness in sharing the nomination papers, voter lists, and rules and regulations of the election as none existed.”

Babar also attached the video of his visit and conversation with the PTI representative. At this point, Babar said he and the rest of the PTI members left the office. Later that evening, the video of the visit to the PTI Central Secretariat made national headlines and was extensively reported in the print media the following day.

“On December 2, a few scores of people without any prior authentication regarding their status in the party assembled at an undisclosed location in Peshawar and shouted ‘qabool hai, qabool hai’. The charade was also shown on national television. The same day election results were announced to the media that elected all the candidates unopposed,” Babar said.

He contended that political parties are the nurseries of future political leadership. The Election Act 2017 and the Rules provide the legal framework to ensure that the leadership of political parties is democratically elected and represents the will of its members.

“It is time that the charade of holding rigged and manipulated intra party elections must end. All major political parties must be vigorously scrutinized under the relevant laws to allow credible and competent leadership to emerge from within political parties. This is the only way forward for democracy to deliver and meet the challenges confronting society,” he emphasized.

In a strong reaction to Babar’s move, PTI called him a tout and fanatic, and insisted the Election Commission discourage anarchy by the misguided narratives of anarchists. “The petition of a fanatic and mischievous tout who was expelled from the party through a legal process since September 2011 and deprived of the primary membership of the party is a heinous conspiracy to confuse the commission,” the party spokesman said.

He argued that it is the responsibility of the Election Commission to stop liars and fraudsters from making statements on issues pending before the Commission. He noted despite the reservations, the PTI has submitted the complete document to the commission after elections under the party’s constitution and law in the light of the commission’s decision.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan must maintain its neutrality for the stability of the Constitution and democracy and the credibility and transparency of elections,” he maintained.

The spokesman urged the Election Commission to ignore the misguided narratives and lies. He contended that instead of keeping the symbol of ‘bat’ in abeyance further, it should be issued for PTI.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reserved its verdict in a case seeking the disqualification of founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan and his removal from the post of party chairman.

A five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, heard the case here, which was filed by Khalid Mehmood, advocate, a few weeks back.

PTI and Imran’s lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said the case must end now after the record of intra-party elections was submitted to the Election Commission and the new chairman had assumed office. However, he addressed the bench and said, “If you want to continue this case, Akbar S Babar is filing a petition, run with it.”

To this, the CEC quipped that the lawyer was giving another opportunity to the petitioner to file another case this time against the new chairman.

In his remarks, the petitioner, Khalid Mahmood, argued that no one had accepted the PTI’s intra-party elections, including its founder member Akbar S Babar. He urged the bench to mention in the order that Imran Khan was convicted and he cannot hold any post in the party.

“Imran Khan did not contest the elections, therefore, we can’t say anything on it,” remarked the chief election commissioner. Later, the Election Commission reserved the verdict related to Imran Khan’s disqualification and removal from the post of party chairman.

The Election Commission had sought an explanation from Imran Khan regarding his continuation as the party chief even after his disqualification in the Toshakhana case. In the light of Toshakhana case verdict, the ECP initiated proceedings to remove Imran from the post of chairman PTI.

On holding of trials of Imran Khan and Fawad Chaudhry in Adiala Jail on contempt of Election Commission and Chief Election Commissioner, the ECP will announce its order on December 6 (today).