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Why is Imran Khan challenging the ECP?

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Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan has filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday, challenging the issuance of his non-bailable arrest warrants by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over his constant absence from proceedings in the contempt case.

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. The ECP is hearing the case filed by PTI dissident and one of its founding members, Akbar S Babar.

“A new warrant is issued in the same case where a bailable warrant was already suspended. We will also look into whether this is contempt of the IHC’s full bench or not, and then we will challenge it,” said Babar Awan last week.

The petition has been filed by Khan’s counsel, Babar Awan. The petition reiterates PTI’s assertion that ECP has no right to issue the warrants and therefore it is an unconstitutional act on part of the elections body. The petition reads that the warrants have caused “mental anguish ” to Imran Khan. PTI has urged the IHC to suspend the warrants.

Read more: ECP issues non-bailable arrest warrants of Imran Khan

The ECP issued bailable arrest warrants of the 65-year old Khan last month which were suspended by the IHC after PTI challenged it by filing a petition. After the issuance of non-bailable arrest warrants, Babar Awan took exceptions to the issuance and said the party will assess if this constitutes a contempt of court. “A new warrant is issued in the same case where a bailable warrant was already suspended. We will also look into whether this is contempt of the IHC’s full bench or not, and then we will challenge it,” said Babar Awan last week.

Khan poses the biggest challenge to the PML-N government with his unflinching resolve to oust whom he calls corrupt in order to ensure that the country treads on the path of democracy where accountability will be done across the board. Khan challenged the jurisdiction of the body in hearing the contempt of court case. However, the ECP said in its decision on 10th August that it has the legal right to hear the case.

Watchers are intrigued as to why the ECP is dishing out warrants especially at a time when previous ones were nullified.

In August, ECP issued a second show-cause notice to Imran Khan after he failed to reply to the earlier notice served on 24th January regarding the contempt of court proceedings against him. Khan has often accused the ECP of being biased and under influence of the government. He believes that the Sharifs thrive on damaging national institutions, using them for eking out safe passages in their operations. Khan calls this rife phenomenon as the real threat to the spirit of democracy. His counsel had tendered an apology but Khan retorted saying the council did that in his personal capacity.

Read more: What if Imran Khan is disqualified by Supreme Court?

Watchers are intrigued as to why the ECP is dishing out warrants especially at a time when previous ones were nullified. Pundits are of the opinion that if Khan comes out of the Supreme Court and ECP cases unhurt, it will be politically damaging for the ruling party, which is trying to fend off NAB references against the Sharif family. While experts believe that it is relatively easy for the government to thwart threats by bringing up legal nuances, Khan will find it difficult to avert the attempts to de-seat him as he will be confronting the full brunt of the government and state machinery.

Analysts opine that the threat of Khan still looms large and plays on the mind of the PML-N. Sources keenly following the PML-N -Khan tiff believe that Khan will be put under more pressure in the days to come. Khan would thus be better served if he faces the ECP, despite its seemingly tilted approach against him.

Insiders in the PTI and other political commentators point out that a plan is afoot to disqualify Khan on frivolous grounds just to “balance off” the ouster of his arch-rival, Nawaz Sharif. Legal experts to include the inimitable legal wizard Aitzaz Ahsan have categorically stated that there is no comparison between Khan’s case and the Panama Case.

However, observers and critics also point out to Khan’s continued refusal to appear in the ECP. Analysts pinpoint his dualism. While he preaches the dire need to respect institutions, he refuses to present himself, thereby hurting his chances of exonerating himself. Pundits feel that Khan’s seemingly obstinate behavior is likely to add to his worries, especially when his opponents are on the lookout for a chance to undermine him. Analysts opine that the threat of Khan still looms large and plays on the mind of the PML-N. Sources keenly following the PML-N -Khan tiff believe that Khan will be put under more pressure in the days to come. Khan would thus be better served if he faces the ECP, despite its seemingly tilted approach against him.


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