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ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has summoned in person Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and former prime minister Imran Khan, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar and Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry on September 27 for making “contemptuous remarks” against the electoral body and the chief election commissioner.

A four-member ECP bench comprising Nisar Durrani, Shah Muhammad Jatoi, Babar Bharwana, and former Justice Ikramullah Khan heard the contempt case against the three politicians on Monday.

In the proceedings, defence lawyer Faisal Chaudhry challenged the ECP’s authority to launch contempt proceedings against anyone under section 10 of the Elections Act 2017.

A related case challenging the ECP’s authority to take on contempt under Section 10 is pending in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), he maintained.

Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017 provides that the commission may exercise the same power as high court to punish any person for contempt of court and the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003— or any other law pertaining to contempt of court shall have effect accordingly.

Chaudhry said the contempt notices issued to the three PTI leaders were sent by ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan, who, he said, had no authority to issue any such notice.

To this, Durrani, the ECP member, responded that ECP functioned through its secretariat and relevant officers. The defence lawyer contradicted the ECP member’s stance, saying, only the CEC and four ECP members have the power to issue contempt notice to anyone. In addition, he said, the notices issued to Khan, Umar, and Chaudhry did not specify any law under which they were being proceeded against.

The defence lawyer submitted the reply of Umar and Chaudhry. He informed the ECP bench that the PTI chief’s reply to the ECP in the contempt case would be submitted later.

The ECP bench reserved its verdict that was later issued. In the verdict, the ECP rejected the stance of the PTI leaders and decided to issue them show cause notices, summoning them in person on the 27th of this month.

Senior PTI leaders have strongly criticised the electoral body and its chief lately. Addressing mammoth public rallies, Khan has alleged on several occasions that incumbent CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja is “biased” against the PTI and is allegedly supporting Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The top PTI leadership has repeatedly demanded of the CEC to step down, questioning his decision to remain on the seat when the “country’s largest political party has no confidence in him.” The CEC has rejected this demand.

On August 19, the ECP issued contempt notices to the three PTI leaders and the case is since pending.—SARDAR SIKANDER SHAHEEN

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