Following the decision by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the Toshakhana reference against PTI Chairman Imran Khan, Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) noted on Monday that Khan had not been disqualified from running in subsequent elections. He continued by saying that the former prime minister “will not face any problems” to run in the NA-45 (Kurram-I) by-election scheduled for October 30.
His comment was made at a hearing about Imran’s plea, which was filed in opposition to the ECP’s decision to disqualify him for what the electoral watchdog claimed was his inability to properly account for money received from the sale of Toshakhana presents when he was the prime minister.
Imran’s counsel, Barrister Ali Zafar, requested the court to begin hearing the case despite the registrar’s procedural concerns at the beginning of the hearing. Justice Minallah questioned the urgency, to which Zafar responded that his client had been disqualified before to the Kurram by-election.
“Imran Khan is not disqualified for that election,” the IHC Chief Justice said.
“There should be one standard for all. There is no need to rush in this case.”
The judge stated that when the objections were dropped, the court will hear the petition.
Justice Minallah cited the lack of the ECP’s full judgement when Zafar asked the court to grant a stay order on the ruling.
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“Which verdict should the court stay?” he asked. “Imran does not want to return to the same seat he was disqualified from, does he?”
Zafar contended that the PTI chairman’s participation in the approaching by-election made the stay necessary. Justice Minallah, however, said that Imran will not experience any issues in this aspect. Justice Minallah said that it was not the court’s responsibility to explain the topic to the public when the counsel claimed that the general public would not grasp it.
“This has not happened previously. The court cannot set such an example,” the judge remarked.
The ECP’s ruling, according to Zafar, was likewise unusual. The chief justice of the IHC noted that it was customary to deliver a summary judgement first. Justice Minallah stated that the court anticipated the judgement to be made public within three days and that if this did not occur, the court would investigate the situation.
“The court issued directives to implement [its verdict] the same day in connection with a case related to inmates. The court should issue directives to the ECP to submit the verdict today in our case as well,” Zafar contended.
The court then remarked that urgent instructions were required since the prisoners in the instance Zafar had mentioned were being tortured. The PTI attorney said that the ECP may “alter the judgement” in the current case because it was a democratic issue.
Justice Minallah, however, remained adamant, asserting that the court would have heard the petition if there had been any cause for haste. In his defence, Zafar said that in the PTI case regarding illicit fundraising, the ECP had “changed its ruling.” “This case has become a black mark against Imran Khan. He does not want to contest the election with it. Many [people] have been disqualified before this case. Did it affect their politics? This court does not issue directives to any constitutional body. We are giving a week’s time. If the verdict’s copy is not received, we will see [then],” Justice Minallah said.
“Wait for the [written] verdict. This is a routine matter. The Election Commission is not delaying it,” he observed.
The judge then responded that the sessions court will consider Zafar’s claim that the ECP had also ordered to begin legal procedures against Imran.
The PTI lawyer was then given a three-day deadline by the court to eliminate the petition’s objections.