PTI should ensure level playing field within party: SC judge


ISLAMABAD: A senior Supreme Court judge on Saturday remarked that for a level playing field, PTI should extend it internally, adding that conducting intra-party elections according to the constitution would have made it the most transparent in Pakistan.

The SC judge s remarks came during the hearing of the Election Commission of Pakistan s (ECP) petition challenging the Peshawar High Court s (PHC) decision to restore the PTI s ‘bat’ election symbol.

“You ask for a level playing field, you must also give one to your members,” Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar remarked.

A three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and Justices Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Musarrat Hilali is hearing the case.

The proceedings of the case are being broadcast live on the SC website and YouTube channel.

Barrister Ali Zafar is representing the PTI in the case, while Makhdoom Ali Khan is ECP s counsel.

Today’s hearing

At the outset of the hearing today, Chief Justice Isa said that the Peshawar High Court had issued a detailed order restoring PTI’s electoral symbol. “The party’s counsel hailed it as an excellent decision,” he said.

Hamid then came to the rostrum, noting that today was the last day to submit the party tickets to the ECP so he would try to wrap up his arguments soon

Justice Mazhar raised two crucial questions whether the court’s jurisdiction and the ECP’s authority to investigate intra-party polls.

PTI’s lawyer, Zafar, argued that neither the Constitution nor the Elections Act 2017 granted the ECP the right to review intra-party elections.

Referring to Article 17 of the Constitution, he asserted that contesting elections with an electoral symbol was a political party’s right, accusing the ECP of discrimination.

Zafar contended that PTI’s intra-party elections adhered to the party’s constitution. “Despite responding to the ECP’s 32 questions in writing, the watchdog set aside the polls”.

Zafar claimed that none of the PTI members challenged the intra-party polls, stressing that the party complied with the 20-day timeframe set by the ECP to avoid exclusion from the elections.

Reiterating his stance on democracy, Chief Justice Isa emphasized the need for democracy within political parties and the country. He underscored the importance of verifying that intra-party elections were conducted, acknowledging Akbar S. Babar’s role within the PTI, even if disliked by the party.

CJP urged PTI’s counsel to either provide the full context for allegations of mala fide against the ECP or keep the arguments strictly legal.

“It should at least be seen that [intra-party] elections were conducted,” he said, adding that Akbar S. Babar was also a party member “even if disliked” by the party.

“Did we appoint them? You all appoint these people. We don t appoint them,” he remarked, adding that the apex court could “force” the commission to perform its duties but “not take on their responsibilities”.

The CJP told the PTI counsel: “Substantiate if you are taking the angle of mala fide.”

Chief Justice Isa pressed the PTI counsel to substantiate claims of mala fide.

At this, the PTI counsel, Hamid, opted to keep arguments non-political when asked if he was withdrawing the mala fide allegations.

Previous hearing

The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday said regulating political parties is the job of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

These remarks were made by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa while hearing the Election Commission of Pakistan s (ECP) appeal against the Peshawar High Court (PHC) verdict restoring the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf s (PTI) electoral symbol — bat.

“SC will not interfere in the domain of the Election Commission of Pakistan. However, if ECP commits any unconstitutional act then the court can look into it,” the CJP added.

PTI s lawyer Hamid Khan in his remarks said the SC has clarified that no institution can file an appeal against the verdicts.

The ECP can file a review on appeals else there will be no worth of its decisions, the CJP remarked and added if the argument of PTI is accepted then questions will also be raised on its appeal in Peshawar High Court.

The CJP Isa asked Makhdoom whether the PHC s written order had been issued or not, the latter replied that it had not been.

The lawyer then read out the PHC order that restored the PTI s bat symbol. He said that the ECP had not yet received “any notice” of the PHC order, to which the chief justice said, “I have not read the case file either.”

The top judge asked Makhdoom when he would be ready to present the case, at which the counsel urged the SC to adjourn the hearing till Monday. Makhdoom further said that the political parties would be allotted electoral symbols tomorrow.

Read more:  PTI bat symbol : ECP challenges PHC decision in Supreme Court

The top judge observed that to adjourn the hearing till Monday, the PHC s recent verdict would have to be suspended, adding that the apex court was ready to hear the case on Saturday and Sunday as well.

The ECP lawyer then sought time till tomorrow to prepare for the case.

PHC verdict

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Wednesday got back bat as its election symbol after the Peshawar High Court (PHC) nullified the Election Commission of Pakistan s (ECP) order to strip the party of using the bat symbol.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf moved Peshawar High Court to challenge the Election Commission of Pakistan s (ECP) decision declaring the intra-party election as null and void and revoking their electoral symbol “bat”.

A two-member Peshawar High Court (PHC) bench comprising Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Arshad Ali announced the verdict.


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