Monday March 04, 2024

Only ECP has made Imran offer apology

September 01, 2022
Board outside Election Commission of Pakistan building. —Photo File
Board outside Election Commission of Pakistan building. —Photo File

ISLAMABAD: As the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has given Imran Khan seven days to reconsider his decision of not tendering an unconditional apology for his contemptuous remarks about an additional sessions judge, the past incident suggests that only the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) can force him into submitting a written apology — not once but twice.

In contrast, the Supreme Court issued contempt notice to Khan in 2013 but disposed it of a year later without receiving a word of regret from the alleged contemnor, let alone ensuring he apologized in writing.

That case was somewhat similar in nature to what the IHC is currently dealing with. By then, Khan had used the word “shameful” to describe the role of session judges in 2013 elections. When the contempt notice was served in July 2013, Khan said he would prefer going to jail instead of offering an apology to the apex court. Like his latest argument that he didn’t know that Zeba Chaudhry was part of judiciary hence threatened her of an action, in 2013 he argued that his criticism was aimed at returning officers’ role in general elections, not at the judiciary in general. A bench then headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry didn’t accept his explanation. Hamid Khan represented the PTI chairman in that case too.

The case was still pending when Justice Anwar Jamali became chief justice. He heard the case. The then attorney general, Munir Malik, suggested the court show restraint. Khan didn’t offer an apology. However, the court disposed of the case while noting in its decision that Khan had shown “signs of encountering an unpleasant situation and remorse on his face with reference to these proceedings which have expanded from his one-word objectionable remarks.”

The last para of that verdict reads: “As a sequel of what has been discussed above, and looking to the overall conduct of Mr. Imran Khan, we have no reason to doubt his bona fide or to disbelieve his statement, and all these facts justify our conclusion to discharge the show cause notice without further calling upon any unconditional/formal apology from him in this regard.”

However, the ECP was unsparing when Khan targeted it in connection with the foreign funding case in 2017. On two different occasions, he made contemptuous remarks towards the ECP including one occasion when he declared it “biased.” Akbar S. Babar, the petitioner in foreign funding case, filed an application that Khan had passed contemptuous remarks. Justice (R) Sardar Raza Khan was the chief election commissioner.

A five-member bench, headed by Sardar Raza Khan, summoned him. At Khan’s non-appearance, arrest warrants were issued. The PTI chairman moved the Islamabad High Court which directed him to file its reply in the contempt case.

Babar Awan, Khan’s lawyer in this case, finally submitted his unconditional apology a day before the ECP was to announce its verdict in the contempt proceeding. Khan appeared in person to offer an apology.

Khan had to apologize again in August 2018. He was held accused of breaching the election code of conduct while casting his vote openly. The ECP demanded a signed apology from him and until then the notification of declaring him winner was withheld. Khan had won from five constituencies. Left with no option, he was to submit an apology. Babar Awan was Khan’s lawyer in that case too.

Incidentally, Khan at present is also facing contempt charges from the ECP together with Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry for making scandalous remarks about the Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and other members of the Commission.

The alleged contemnors moved the Sindh High Court which has directed the ECP not to issue verdict till further orders. Fawad separately moved the Lahore High Court which has passed the same direction. Consequently, the ECP has been left with no option but to wait for the high court orders.