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ISLAMABAD: Shortly after assuring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of a level playing field in the upcoming general elections, the electoral body, Friday, nullified the former ruling party’s intra-party elections, for the third time since last year, declaring the PTI

ineligible for obtaining its traditional electoral symbol of ‘bat’.

The development that surfaces at a time when the general elections-related activities have gained momentum implies that the PTI that is regarded as one of the largest political parties of the country is practically out of the general elections - and its candidates would now have to contest the polls as independents - unless the PTI moves superior courts that decide otherwise.

Prior to the issuance of its verdict on PTI intra-party elections case, a PTI delegation visited Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) headquarters where the visiting delegates were assured by senior ECP officials of a level playing field in the general elections.

But, the verdict on intra-party elections that was reserved earlier, and issued Friday night, stated, “So keeping in view the clear mandate of Elections Act 2017 - it is held that PTI has not complied with our directions rendered therein order dated 23rd November, 2023 and failed to hold intra-party election in accordance with PTI prevailing Constitution 2019 and Elections Act 2017, and Election Rules, 2017.

Therefore, the certificate dated 4th December, 2023 and Form-65 filed by the alleged chairman, is hereby regretted and rejected accordingly.

The provisions of Section 215 of the Election Act 2017 are hereby invoked and PTI is hereby declared ineligible to obtain the election symbol for which they have applied for.”

The five-member ECP bench hearing PTI intra-party elections case issued the verdict.

On November 23, in an apparent U-turn, the electoral body nullified the intra-party elections of the PTI despite earlier verbally declaring these polls as legitimate, and directed the former ruling party to hold the intra-party elections in 20 days.

Prior to that, in the final hearing of the case in August, the ECP accepted PTI’s submissions related to intra-party elections. The bench members verbally conveyed their decision to the defence side that the PTI intra-party polls were valid, duly held on June 9, 2022— and that the matter stood resolved.

On ECP’s directives, the PTI held its intra-party elections earlier this month. However, as many as 15 petitioners including former PTI member Akbar Sher Babar, who was expelled by the PTI some 12 years ago, challenged the intra-party polls, terming them as fraudulent.

Generally, intra-party elections of the political parties are regarded as a ceremonial exercise— and the ECP mostly accepts the related certificates submitted to it by the political parties regarding completion of the party polls, a mandatory requirement under the relevant election laws.

But, in case of the PTI intra-party polls, the matter remained lingering since last year when the PTI held its intra-party elections but the ECP refused to accept these polls, that were first held in June last year, raising procedural objections.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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