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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

ECP drops contempt proceedings against Imran: Win-win for both?

News Analysis |

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) brought an end to the protracted contempt of court case against Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan after accepting his written apology which he tendered while appearing in front of the ECP on Thursday. The case was filed by PTI dissident and one of its founding members, Akbar S Babar on 23rd January 2017.

The 5-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza ordained Khan’s lawyer, Babar Awan to furnish a written apology. The counsel and Khan tendered the apology after consultations with party leaders and senior lawyers.

The acceptance of the apology brought an end to an elongated tussle between Khan and top poll body. A triumphant Khan talked to the media outside the ECP after the case ended today and cleared the air. He said that criticism on ECP was meant to make it stronger and credible. “We want to see a strong ECP. We have a 126-day dharna (sit-in) for free and transparent elections. Criticism is part of democracy, and statements were a reaction to my arrest warrants,” said Khan.

He added that it is important for the ECP to restore its prestige in the public’s eye. ” My case concludes today; this is not my war, we all want the next elections to be free and fair. The ECP should hold free and fair elections as it is its utmost duty to do so,” said Khan while adding that he will continue to raise his voice against odd practices.

What convinced Imran to appear before ECP?

On 12th October, the country’s chief poll body while issuing Khan’s non-bailable arrest warrants had ordered that Khan should be arrested and presented before the commission in the next hearing on 26th October.

It would be reasonable to argue that Khan has somewhat thwarted one of the very many threats to his political future. However, relief from this case may mean more pressure on the case running in the Supreme Court.

The PTI moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the warrants; the court ruled in favor of Khan last week. In August, ECP handed out a second show-cause notice to Imran Khan after he failed to reply to the one served on 24th January. Khan had continually accused the ECP of being biased and acting under duress and influence of the government.

Read more: ECP’s decision against PTI in Gulalai case will haunt PML-N?

Analysts, while raising eyebrows at the way ECP was operating had also pointed out that Khan continued refusal to duck proceedings was politically damaging. They pointed out his flip-flopping: while he preaches the pressing need to respect institutions, he refuses to present himself before the commission.

Finally, Khan’s advisors and lawyers convinced him to appear before ECP which he did today. After the amicable solution of the ECP-Khan dispute, pundits questioned Khan’s decision not to appear before election body earlier.

Did ECP restore its credibility today?

A major crisis for Imran and PTI has been averted today since his political opponents were trying to exploit this case. It is also a great relief for ECP since, after every decision of the election body, it was being seen as partisan and pro Nawaz League.

On October 24, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected the reference filed by Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, which sought the disqualification of the dissident lawmaker, Ayesha Gulalai on grounds of violating party rules.

Pundits were intrigued by the decision of the ECP. Article 63 A (b)(i) states: “A member can be disqualified on defection if he/she votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs, in relation to the election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister.”

Analysts argued that the ECP has a lot of defending to do in this regard; many asserted that this decision was made out of sheer inclination against Khan on part of the ECP.

However, after today’s events, pundits opined that by ending the contempt case against Khan, ECP has tried to restore its credibility as an impartial election body close to the next general elections. Hence, they are calling it a win-win for both Khan and ECP.

Will pressure on Khan ease now?

Khan has been the torch-bearer of the campaign to ensure free and fair elections which he believes are the bedrock of democracy. The plea to open 4 NA constituencies after the 2013 polls festered into a major political challenge when Khan led an indomitable campaign to dislodge Nawaz on grounds of rigging in the 2013 elections.

Read more: ECP vs Khan: PTI submits its financial records of the last…

Khan calls this prevalent phenomenon as a real and genuine threat to the spirit of democracy. His counsel had tendered an apology but Khan retorted saying the council did that in his personal capacity.

Khan, by virtue of being the biggest challenger for the government, is under tremendous pressure. The end to this case is a breather for him especially at a time when he is grappling with the other case in the Supreme Court pertaining to his Bani Gala mansion. Analysts assert that when the opponents are bent upon hurting Khan’s brazenness and meteoric rise, Khan must avoid unnecessary preoccupations.

It would be reasonable to argue that Khan has somewhat thwarted one of the very many threats to his political future. However, relief from this case may mean more pressure on the case running in the Supreme Court.