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The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has deemed the intra-party polls of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) “unconstitutional” and has revoked the party’s claim to its iconic electoral symbol. This decision comes despite assurances of a level playing field, raising questions about the PTI’s participation in the upcoming general elections. The verdict was delivered just a day after the Peshawar High Court directed the ECP to address the matter by Friday. The ECP’s microscopic examination of the party’s internal elections, a first of its kind, has left the PTI ineligible to obtain an election symbol for the upcoming polls.
The ECP’s 11-page order stated that the PTI had failed to comply with its directions and had not conducted intra-party elections according to its constitution, the prevailing Election Act of 2017, and the Election Rules of 2017. This marks the second time in less than a month that the ECP has voided the PTI’s internal elections, leaving the party in a precarious position just weeks before the general elections.
Order regarding PTI intra party election and ineligibility to obtain symbol bathttps://t.co/ligBkvyVfF
— Election Commission of Pakistan (OFFICIAL) (@ECP_Pakistan) December 22, 2023
Following the announcement, the PTI, through its official communication on social media, labeled the decision as part of the “famous London Plan” and a “disgusting and shameful attempt” to hinder the party’s electoral participation. Despite the setback, the PTI expressed confidence in winning the elections and vowed to challenge the decision at every available forum. The party asserted that its candidates would still contest with the ‘bat’ symbol, implying a determination to overcome the electoral hurdle.
If the PTI fails to obtain an election symbol through judicial intervention, its candidates may have to contest as independents for national and provincial assembly seats. Importantly, they would be unable to rejoin the PTI even if successful in the elections, as they can only join a party duly enlisted with the ECP. This scenario could expose them to pressures from other parties and potential defection, as they would not risk losing their seats under the defection clause.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had emphasized the importance of a level playing field for all political parties, including the PTI, to ensure fair and healthy electoral competition. The SC’s order called for the ECP to play a crucial role in conducting elections by democratic principles and ensuring equal opportunities for all political parties and candidates. This directive was issued in response to a petition filed by Gohar Ali Khan, the former chairman of the PTI.
Despite the SC’s assurances and subsequent promises from the ECP to address the PTI’s concerns, the final verdict has left the party in a challenging position. The PTI, known for its iconic ‘bat’ symbol, now faces the prospect of navigating the electoral landscape without its distinctive emblem, adding complexity to an already intense political landscape.