January 16, 2024
ISLAMABAD – PTI leader Barrister Gohar Ali Khan on Monday expressed fear that the Supreme Court’s decision on the party’s iconic electoral symbol ‘bat’ could increase horse-trading.
His statement comes after a three-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, upheld the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) Dec 22 decision to declare the PTI’s intra-party polls as “unconstitutional” and revoke its ‘bat’ symbol.
As a result, the party’s members will now be contesting the elections as independent candidates with different electoral symbols and the party no longer has the right to reserved seats for women and minorities.
During an interview on Geo News programme ‘Capital Talk’ today, Barrister Gohar was questioned whether the apex court’s verdict would lead to an increase in horse-trading and floor crossing.
“This [verdict] will definitely lead to a rise in horse-trading. How will it not?” he replied.
Barrister Gohar explained that elections for the Senate, prime minister, president, National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker, chief ministers etc. would need to be held and votes from independent candidates would play an important role in them.
Providing an example, he said the prime minister needed 172 votes to win, adding that if a candidate even had 70 votes then they would be able to become premier by securing 100 more from the independents.
“You will get the votes for free because you eliminated one party … whoever has more money will collect votes from there.”
Nonetheless, Barrister Gohar expressed hope that independent candidates affiliated with the PTI would remain loyal to it, adding that the party also had a “plan C” for regaining its lost reserved seats.
He explained that if independent candidates affiliated with the PTI joined it again after the party reformed itself, then the party would regain its reserved seats.
Elaborating on the party’s February 8 election strategy, Barrister Gohar said the party would widely circulate the election symbols of candidates affiliated with it so the people would know who to vote for.
“There will be an unbelievable turnout this time on Feb 8 because all that has happened with us is now in the public’s domain.”
He also said enough was enough and now there should be a “ceasefire” in the political arena so free and fair elections could be held.
Talking about his interaction with PTI chief Imran Khan in Adiala Jail, Barrister Gohar said the former expressed disappointment with the apex court verdict.
“Hate should not be so much that a person can no longer do justice,” he quoted Imran as saying.
Nonetheless, Barrister Gohar said Imran gave a message for all party supporters to not worry and fully participate in the elections.
Earlier, while talking to the media outside Adiala Jail, Gohar said the PTI would issue a list of party-affiliated candidates, with their respective electoral symbols, within three days. He requested the nation to vote for these candidates in the upcoming polls.
He said the SC verdict had affected the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan. “A conspiracy against democracy has succeeded, this is a huge loss for democracy and [this decision] will give birth to a new wave of corruption,” he lamented.
He added that even though the apex court’s decision was final, it won’t stop the party. “We won’t boycott elections and God willing fully participate in them,” Barrister Gohar vowed.
He further stated that the party would definitely file a review appeal against the SC judgment, noting that a five-member apex court bench should have heard the matter as the case concerned Article 17 of the Constitution.
The article states that every citizen “shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality”.
Regarding the raid at his residence over the weekend, the PTI leader said he was satisfied with the investigation underway. “We have been facing this, but it should stop now and we should proceed towards elections,” he added.
PTI withdraws plea seeking contempt proceedings against ECP from SC
Earlier today, the PTI withdrew its plea seeking contempt proceedings against the ECP for allegedly not implementing the SC’s orders of providing the party with a level playing field for the upcoming general elections.
On Dec 26, the PTI had filed a contempt plea before the SC, alleging that the ECP had not complied with the court’s orders, wherein it had directed the ECP to address its grievances on an urgent basis to ensure that the electoral process remained “smooth, open, transparent, free and fair”.
The case was being heard by a three-member bench, led by CJP Isa and comprising justices Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Musarrat Hilali.
In its response to the top court, the election commission on January 7 had said that 76 per cent of the nomination papers filed by PTI candidates for the upcoming elections had been accepted, negating the party’s allegations of a lack of level playing field in the run-up to polls.
As the apex court resumed hearing the contempt plea today, the PTI informed the court that it was withdrawing its petition, saying that the party had “no expectations from the ECP” and was “going to the public”. Subsequently, the SC disposed of the plea.
During today’s hearing, CJP Isa recalled that the court had issued directives to the state after the raid on PTI leader Gohar Ali Khan’s house. He further said that despite asking the PTI leader to write a letter in case he was not satisfied with the police inquiry, no such response had been submitted as yet.
Addressing the top judge, Khosa said, “We ran a movement for your sake, sacrificed our blood. If a difficult time arrives even today, we are ready to sacrifice our lives.
“We came seeking a level playing field but you took away the ‘field’ itself. You announced a verdict at 11:30pm on January 13 that scattered the PTI and took away 230 [reserved] seats,” he lamented.
In response, Justice Isa recalled that the court had repeatedly asked the PTI lawyers to show documental evidence of the intra-party polls, adding that the SC had ordered for the general elections to not be delayed on a PTI plea.
“Our job is to hold the polls as per the law,” he remarked.
“We do not make the law [but] have it implemented. If you do not like the law, then change it,” he added.
Here, Khosa argued that the Awami National Party’s (ANP) electoral symbol had been restored last week without holding the intra-party polls, asking, “Why was the PTI not given [its symbol]?”
The chief justice responded that it emerged recently that the ANP had time left to conduct its intra-party polls according to its party constitution, hence it was given its symbol back. “Khosa sahib, this is not the right manner. You are a senior lawyer. You are damaging all institutions of Pakistan,” he remarked.
“Now how can we expect that we will get a level playing field? We now want to go before the court of 250m people. We have no expectations from the election commission,” Khosa said.
Here, CJP Isa said, “If you want to accept the court order, do so. If you do not want to, don’t. Do not put the burden of the Supreme Court’s decision on us.”
The PTI leader said that as a result of losing the party symbol, its candidates would now have to contest the elections independently and would be confused due to the different symbols.
At one point, Justice Hilali also asked Khosa, “Do you think that the elections are not transparent?”
The lawyer responded by saying that they were “completely unfair”.
The CJP said, “The court can give orders but not become the government.” He also told the PTI lawyer to file a petition if they had objections on the intra-party polls of another political party.
Justice Hilali then asked the ECP officials whether the electoral watchdog was unfair. “Why are you running after one political party? Why cannot you see other political parties?”
The court then asked Khosa about an alliance the PTI had made, to which the leader replied, “This is what I am telling you; we were not even allowed to form an alliance.”
“The chief of the party with which we allied was picked up and made to hold a press conference,” Khosa alleged, referring to PTI-Nazriati Chairman Akbar Iqbal Dar denying allowing PTI leaders to contest the polls on its ‘batsman’ symbol.
“Preparations are being made to register cases against us for forming an alliance. Your [SC’s] verdict has expelled us from parliamentary politics,” the PTI counsel said.
SC verdict ‘black day for democracy’: Latif Khosa
Speaking outside the apex court, Khosa lamented that the SC’s verdict of upholding the ECP decision had “destroyed democracy”, terming it a “black day for democracy”. He added it was “equivalent to depriving the 25 million Pakistanis of their right of franchise”.
He recalled incidents of arrests as well as those where nomination papers of PTI candidates were snatched. The PTI leader said that in his response to the SC, the Islamabad police chief had denied those incidents and asserted that there had been “no unpleasant” events.
“What can be a bigger joke than my son being arrested from outside my office as he was also a candidate and the [Lahore] High Court’s Justice Baqar Najafi sahib observed that he was arrested in relation to the elections and was based on mala fide,” the PTI leader said.
He added that when he had urged Justice Isa to see the affidavits and CDs attached as evidence of such incidents, he had replied “no, not right now”.
Speaking about the electoral symbol saga, Khosa asserted that the PTI held its intra-party polls according to its party constitution within the 20-day period the ECP had given it. Referring to the petitioners who had challenged the intra-party elections, he said, “Those 13 people lied [as if] they are representing our 20-25 million members. They are not even PTI members.
“Can Akbar S. Babar compete with Imran Khan? He cannot even compete with an ordinary party worker. […] Tell me, has any candidate come forward against Bilawal, Asif Ali Zardari [or] Nawaz Sharif? You can see all parties,” the lawyer said.
The PTI leader said that when a political party’s executive body makes a decision to appoint its office-holders, “it usually happens that no one challenges it”.
Khosa further said that talks with the PTI-N chief had been under way for “many days” and seven seats that he had asked for had also been given to his party.
“Keep in mind that the party has not been banned and God-willing, it would be elected and will rise.”