PTI Loses ‘Bat’ Symbol as PHC Upholds ECP Verdict

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) suffered a major blow on Wednesday as the Peshawar High Court (PHC) upheld the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to declare the party’s intra-party polls null and void and strip it of its election symbol — bat.

A single-member bench of Justice Ejaz Khan announced the reserved verdict after hearing arguments from both sides. The court recalled its earlier interim order that had suspended the ECP’s decision and allowed the PTI to use the ‘bat’ symbol till the final disposal of the case.

The court observed that the interim order had created hindrance in the smooth process of the election, which is to be conducted by the ECP as per its constitutional mandate. The court directed the ECP to proceed with the election process without any delay.

The ECP had filed a review petition in the PHC against the court’s December 26 decision, which had granted relief to the PTI. The ECP had challenged the PTI’s intra-party elections and its decision related to the election symbol.

The ECP had issued an order on December 22, in which it had declared the PTI’s intra-party polls illegal and unconstitutional. The ECP had said that the PTI had violated its own constitution and the Political Parties Order 2002 by conducting the polls through an online voting system, which was not transparent and verifiable.

The ECP had also said that the PTI had failed to submit the required documents and details of its intra-party polls, such as the list of voters, candidates, and results. The ECP had revoked the PTI’s status as a political party and taken away its ‘bat’ symbol.

The PTI had approached the PHC against the ECP’s order, seeking to restore its electoral symbol ahead of the general elections slated for February 8. The PTI had argued that the ECP had exceeded its jurisdiction and interfered in the internal affairs of the party. The PTI had also claimed that the ‘bat’ symbol was a major voter driving force and a symbol of change.

The PTI’s legal team, comprising Advocates Shah Faisal Uthmankhel and Qazi Anwar, appeared before the court on Wednesday. They requested the court to maintain the interim order and allow the PTI to use the ‘bat’ symbol till the final decision of the case.

They also questioned the ECP’s authority to challenge the PHC’s order and said that the ECP had not implemented the court’s order and had not issued the PTI’s intra-party election certificate on its website. They said that the ECP’s decision was unfair and unjust and that it would harm the PTI’s prospects in the upcoming elections.

The ECP’s lawyer, Sikander Bashir Mohmand, argued that the ECP had the constitutional mandate to regulate the affairs of the political parties and to ensure free and fair elections. He said that the ECP had the power to review the PTI’s intra-party polls and to revoke its election symbol.

He said that the PTI had not conducted genuine and democratic intra-party polls and had violated the law and the constitution. He said that the PTI had not cooperated with the ECP and had not provided the necessary information and documents. He requested the court to withdraw the PTI’s stay order and to restore the ECP’s order.

The court, after hearing both sides, reserved the verdict and announced it later in the day. The court accepted the ECP’s review petition and dismissed the PTI’s plea. The court restored the ECP’s order and directed it to carry on with the election process.

The court’s decision has put the PTI in a difficult situation, as it will have to contest the elections without its ‘bat’ symbol. The party’s candidates will have to run as independent candidates, which may affect their chances of winning.

The PTI has decided to challenge the PHC’s decision in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The party’s former chairman, Barrister Gohar Khan, said that the party would move the apex court after due deliberations. He said that the SC would not let this matter slide and would provide relief to the party.

He said that the SC had already stated that revoking a party’s symbol was tantamount to disbanding the entire party. He said that the ‘bat’ symbol was the identity of the PTI and its supporters and that it was crucial for the party’s success. He said that the ECP’s decision had damaged democracy and that the ECP should allot another symbol to the PTI if it had an issue with the ‘bat’.

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