Imran accuses ECP of abuse of authority, asks IHC to declare notifications 'illegal'

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) once again restrained the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from pronouncing a verdict against Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Imran Khan who has allegedly been accused of violating ECP’s code of conduct during the election campaigns.

Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC issued the restraining order on Monday after hearing arguments from PTI chairman’s counsel, Babar Awan.

Earlier, on May 4, 2017, the court had granted a stay order against the proceedings before the ECP but vacated it during a previous hearing due to the absence of the petitioner and his counsel for a couple of hearings.

The PTI chairman had approached the IHC against notifications from the ECP that restricted lawmakers and party heads from running election campaigns.

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Khan, a member of the National Assembly, standing from NA-56 (Rawalpindi), through his counsel has made the ECP and the director general (Elections) respondents in the case.

The counsel said that the petitioner, being the chairman of PTI, heads different movements of by-elections and other poll related activities throughout the country, which is a right guaranteed under the Constitution.

To the utter surprise of the petitioner and other democratic forces in the country, Awan said in the petition, a number of notifications were issued by the ECP that abridged fundamental rights.

On April 16, 2015, he said, the ECP issued a notification which imposed restrictions on the president, prime minister, ministers of state, governors, chief ministers, provincial ministers and advisors to the PM and chief ministers from visiting the area of constituency or giving any subscription or donation in such constituencies.

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On May 7, 2015, the notification was further amended, which in addition to the aforementioned government officials, members of the national assembly and provincial assembly [MNAs and MPAs] were also included.

Later, he said, the poll body issued another similar notification on September 16, 2015.

On February 6, 2017, the respondents issued a notification to the petitioner [Imran] which, as per the counsel, is wholly illegal on account of visiting constituencies in the province of Punjab.

Babar maintained that the inclusion of MNAs and MPAs with the president, premier and others is mala fide on part of the ECP. He said that by no stretch of imagination could the MNAs and MPAs, who do not hold any official or governmental position, fall within the same category or class of those who are in power.

Babar said that it is obvious from the fact that the ECP had only the petitioner – Imran Khan – in mind while issuing such notifications because he, perhaps, was the only MNA who, having no governmental or official position would matter the most with the voters in the by-elections.

He has accused the ECP of abuse of authority saying the poll body issued person-specific notification on February 6, adding that it was an act with intent to keep only the petitioner out of the by-election campaign.

Keeping the men in power out of the election campaign is understandable, he said, but the MNAs and MPAs do not exercise any such power and financial control, and the decision to exclude them from campaigning has no logic, reason or rationale behind it.

Preventing the petitioner, being the head of a party, he said, from campaigning and addressing public meetings in the area of constituencies where by-elections will take place is a violation of Article 16, 17 and 19 of the Constitution.

He has prayed the court declare the notification of May 7, 2015, September 16, 2015, and February 6, 2017, along with any other consequential proceedings pending before the ECP as illegal, without lawful authority and of no legal effect.

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