Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the political party led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan, has written a compelling letter to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The letter urges the ECP to take immediate action against enforced disappearances, which PTI alleges are part of an orchestrated campaign of “pre-poll rigging” aimed at undermining the party’s prospects in the upcoming general election, likely to be held in January.
Imran Khan, currently serving a three-year jail sentence in a corruption case, has openly accused the influential military and intelligence agencies of conspiring to dismantle his political party. He contends that the ongoing legal cases against him are tactics designed to keep him from participating in the forthcoming election, effectively barring him from public office.
The tense standoff between Khan, Pakistan’s widely popular leader according to polls, and the military came to a head in May when Khan supporters were involved in violent clashes following his brief arrest in a separate land graft case. The PTI claims that thousands of Khan supporters were subsequently arrested, and several members, including key aides to the former premier, left the party, allegedly due to state pressure.
Both the military and the previous government led by PM Shehbaz Sharif, which was in power during the May protests, have denied engaging in a crackdown against PTI. They maintain that only those involved in the violence are being held accountable. The current caretaker administration, led by PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, has assured the PTI of a “level playing field” in the upcoming elections.
The PTI’s letter to the chief election commission highlights enforced disappearances as “perhaps the most serious of all the violations of the law and the Constitution happening right now.” PTI asserts that individuals associated with the party are being subjected to illegal arrests and disappearances, constituting a blatant form of pre-poll rigging. The party characterizes these actions as a severe breach of Pakistan’s legal system and justice, the likes of which have not been witnessed in recent history.
The letter identifies six senior PTI members as “victims” of enforced disappearances, namely Sadaqat Ali Abbasi, Usman Dar, Abdul Kareem Khan, Awais Younus, Farrukh Habib, and Sheikh Rasheed. PTI contends that these disappearances violate several articles of Pakistan’s Constitution, including those pertaining to the security of individuals, safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to a fair trial, and the inviolability of human dignity and privacy.
Furthermore, the PTI argues that these disappearances contravene Pakistan’s commitments under various international covenants and treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED).
The party emphasizes that the caretaker government’s primary responsibility is to ensure free and fair elections and to remain impartial toward all individuals and political parties. The PTI expresses deep concern about the impact of these disappearances on the upcoming elections, asserting that without the immediate release of those missing and a clear directive to law enforcement agencies to cease such practices, the elections cannot be considered remotely free or fair.
The PTI’s impassioned plea to the Election Commission of Pakistan underscores the urgency and seriousness of the issue of enforced disappearances. The party implores the ECP to treat this matter with the gravity it deserves, to take immediate action, and to instruct the government to produce the missing individuals while preventing such activities in the future. As Pakistan approaches its next general election, the resolution of this issue will be closely watched, as it is seen as pivotal to ensuring the fairness and integrity of the democratic process.