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The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday suspended arrest warrants against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief, Imran Khan which were issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) last Thursday. Bailable warrants were issued by the top elections body while hearing the Contempt of Court case filed by PTI dissident, Akbar S Babar.

IHC’s four-member bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, held the warrants in-abeyance but directed Khan’s counsel, Babar Awan to tender a reply to the show-cause notice of the ECP by 25th September.

The ECP is being called out for dualism in favor of the ruling party. Its job is to ensure that a level playing field is provided to all parties and contestants without caving into government pressure

The court noted that Khan did not furnish a reply to earlier show-causes notices issued by the ECP; the only reply which was given had no signatures on it. The first notice was issued on 24th January over his remarks about the Commission. Khan has time and again asserted that the ECP is biased and under influence of the government. He firmly believes that the Sharifs use national institutions to their own advantage and against political opponents.

Read more: ECP rejects disqualification references against Imran Khan & Jehangir Tareen

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 the case is within its legal domain. Last month, ECP issued a second show-cause notice to Imran Khan after he failed to reply to the earlier notice regarding the contempt of court proceedings against him.

The ECP is being called out for dualism in favor of the ruling party. Its job is to ensure that a level playing field is provided to all parties and contestants without caving

Babar Awan told the court that Khan has already replied to the notice out of utter respect to the ECP bench. “Did the statement signed by Imran Khan as a copy of the reply not bear his signature?” asked Justice Farooq. Awan said: “I don’t know” while adding that he had full authority to make a statement on Khan’s behalf.

When asked if he intends to file a reply before the ECP, Awan said that he could re-file a reply after getting his client’s signature. He, however, said: “We have been persecuted.” PTI has maintained that ECP is a mere commission and is needlessly acting as a court to undermine Imran Khan who happens to be the greatest challenge to the PML-N and the Sharif family.

Read more: Imran Khan explains to ECP that he had borrowed money from…

The suspension of the case has come at an ideal time for Khan. NAB is seemingly on the look-out for the Sharif family which is in London; a petition has been filed to re-open the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s arrest warrants have been issued. Khan can now use this relief to galvanize his party and take advantage of the situation. A possible arrest could have landed him in deep trouble.

Khan can now use this relief to galvanize his party and take advantage of the situation. A possible arrest could have landed him in deep trouble

Khan had approached the IHC asserting that the ECP had no powers to carry-out contempt proceedings against him. The council has argued that contempt proceedings are carried out through the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003.

Awan stressed that the power of contempt before the ECP was provided through Section 103-A of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976, and it was not amended to the extent of the Ordinance of 2003. The council asked the court to set aside the ECP ruling of 10th August so that it is denied maintainability.

Read more: The cat and mouse game: ECP issues bailable arrest warrants for…

The first notice was issued on 24th January over his remarks about the Commission. Khan has time and again asserted that the ECP is biased and under influence of the government

While the court has given relief to Khan, questions are being raised on the ECP. On one hand, it is going ahead with the cases against Khan robustly but has been unable to take up the grievances of PTI candidate of NA-120, Dr. Yasmin. After numerous petitions and an order from the Lahore High Court, the ECP has not taken up the issue of 29,000 unverified votes in the said constituency.

The ECP is being called out for dualism in favor of the ruling party. Its job is to ensure that a level playing field is provided to all parties and contestants without caving into government pressure. The top election body is a crutch to free and fair elections, therefore it has to show its independence and ability to withstand strings and pulls.

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