Peshawar High Court Suspends ECP Decision, Restores PTI’s Iconic “Bat” Symbol Amidst Legal Battle

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has intervened in the ongoing electoral symbol dispute involving the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The PHC, in a verdict, suspended the ECP's order and restored PTI's iconic "bat" symbol until a final decision is reached on the matter. The court has scheduled a future hearing on PTI's petition challenging the ECP's assertion that the intra-party polls were "illegal."

The ECP's decision on December 22 to strip PTI of its symbolic "bat" came in response to a petition filed by former PTI leader Akbar S Babar, challenging the intra-party elections as inconsistent with the rules. However, the PHC, in its recent ruling, emphasized the urgency of the situation, noting that elections were scheduled for February 8, and the last date for the allotment of election symbols was January 13, 2024.

The PHC's Justice Kamran Hayat Miankhel, during the proceedings, asserted that once the election schedule is issued, the electoral symbol cannot be revoked, putting the onus on the ECP to reinstate PTI's symbol. The court directed the ECP to upload certificates related to PTI's intra-party elections on its website by January 9.

PTI, in its plea filed with the PHC, named the ECP and those challenging the party elections as respondents. The court's written verdict stated, "Depriving a political party of an electoral symbol is a violation of the rights of the voters," and accordingly suspended the ECP's December 22 order.

The PHC also ordered notices to be issued to all respondents for a hearing scheduled on January 9, underscoring the importance of addressing the matter promptly.

Reacting to the court's decision, PTI's Barrister Gohar Ali Khan hailed it as a victory against conspiracies aimed at undermining the party. He asserted that the court's ruling not only restored the election symbol but also reinstated confidence in the judiciary.

Barrister Ali Zafar, representing PTI, welcomed the verdict, emphasizing the fundamental right of a political party to its electoral symbol. He urged the ECP to ensure a free and fair election process and promptly publish PTI's certificates on its website.

The legal battle revolves around the ECP's claim that the intra-party polls held on December 2 were "illegal." PTI's counsel argued that the party had adhered to the given timeline for holding elections and had received certification from the ECP. However, the ECP later rescinded the electoral symbol, citing concerns about the individual who conducted the elections.

Barrister Zafar contended that the ECP's order was both illegal and unconstitutional, emphasizing the significance of the election symbol as a crucial aspect of Article 17 of the Constitution. He warned that if the ECP was granted the authority to question party elections, it would violate the rights outlined in Article 17.

PTI's petition, presented to the PHC, challenged the ECP's jurisdiction to decide the procedure for intra-party elections. It argued that the complainant challenging the polls was not a party member and called for the court to set aside the ECP's order and declare it illegal.

In the aftermath of PTI's intra-party elections, Akbar S Babar contested the results, prompting the ECP's intervention. Not only did the party lose its symbolic "bat," but the chairman elected during these polls, Barrister Gohar Khan, was also invalidated.

As the legal proceedings continue, the upcoming hearing, just days ahead of the final date for the allotment of electoral symbols on January 13, will play a pivotal role in determining the course of PTI's participation in the upcoming elections scheduled for February 8.

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