Imran Khan's party alleges its candidates forced out of poll process

The party said that its members were targeted, arrested despite assurances from the top poll body and the judiciary

By PTI

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Imran Khan. Photo: File
Imran Khan. Photo: File

Published: Sat 23 Dec 2023, 7:47 PM

Jailed former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's party has alleged that its members were targeted, arrested and stopped from filing nomination papers for the February 8 elections despite assurances from the top poll body and the judiciary.

The allegations come after Pakistan’s election commission on Friday rejected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s organisational elections and its plea to have the cricket bat as the electoral symbol for the elections.

The last date for filing the nomination papers for the elections is December 24.

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According to a report in the Dawn newspaper, several Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) hopefuls were not even allowed to reach the Returning Officers (ROs), belying the caretaker government’s claim about providing a level playing field to all.

Constitutional right

According to the party's lawyers, police have prepared a list of over 50 PTI leaders, who are already booked in May 9 riots cases registered across Punjab, preventing them from entering the poll process.

PTI leaders told Dawn that their constitutional right was being trampled by the police.

On Friday, incarcerated PTI leader Yasmin Rashid’s husband Rashid Nabi Malik was arrested from the RO’s office, when he went to submit her nomination papers.

Malik was injured in a scuffle with police when he resisted giving them her papers to contest against PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.

'Most controversial and rigged elections'

PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan in an X post urged the ECP chief “to take note and order this madness to stop”.

Otherwise, he stated, “should we assume that the elections that will be conducted in Pakistan will be the most controversial and rigged elections in the history of Pakistan”.

PTI leader Moonis Elahi tweeted that her mother went to the Gujrat RO to submit the nomination papers but police locked the office from inside.

He stated, “PTI candidates’ proposers and seconders are being arrested and tortured too”.

PTI's central Punjab additional general secretary Sardar Azeemullah Khan told the Dawn newspaper that the government was targeting every potential person in the party, nominating them in FIRs, proceeding to block their Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) and bank accounts or raiding their homes to harass and humiliate family members to ensure they should stay out of polls.

Khan said his son tried to file papers for NA-124 “but a sub-inspector stopped him from doing so and astonishingly Assistant Returning Officer Rana Ashraf happened to be the first cousin of a PML-N candidate from the same constituency”.

In Lahore, the nomination papers of Hafiz Farhat were snatched from his lawyers, while Hammad Azhar’s house was raided and police kept searching for nomination papers. Separately, jail officials did not allow Hassaan Niazi and Sanam Javed to sign their nomination papers.

Nomination papers snatched

In the Hafizabad area of Punjab, the nomination papers were snatched from Imran Haider Bhatti and Chaudhry Shaukat Bhatti allegedly by the Deputy Superintendent Police (DSP) concerned. Police raided party leaders’ outhouses and residences and picked up family members.

In Gujranwala, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali’s nomination papers for PP (Punjab Province)-62 were torn outside the RO office. Usama Hamza from Gojra NA-105 was picked up, though he was released the next day by a court.

Nomination forms of Zahid Iqbal (PP-234 Vehari) were snatched.

A PTI aspirant from Pasrur, Haider Gill was detained at RO’s office while police allegedly snatched the papers of a candidate from Wazirabad, Ahmad Chattha.

In Sargodha (NA-84), the RO refused to accept the nomination papers of Shafqat Awan. In Gujranwala (NA-77), Tariq Mahmood’s nomination papers were not received by the RO.

In Bahawalpur, police raided the residence of Samiullah Chaudhry and ransacked the furniture.

In Talagang, the lawyer of PTI president Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was taken into custody from the premises of the RO office. Separately, Ehsan Mehmood and Babar Gujjar were picked up.

Police raid houses

Police also raided the houses of five other PTI leaders but they were not present at their residences.

This comes despite assurance by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)that it would address its concerns regarding a lack of a level playing field in the February 8 general election.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court instructed the top election body to address the concerns of Khan's party.

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court disposed of a petition against an alleged incident of nomination papers being snatched in Mianwali after police denied any such incident.

A law officer submitted a report on behalf of the Mianwali District Police Officer (DPO) saying no such incident had occurred. It said police did not receive any such complaint.

Justice Ali Baqar Najafi directed the police to ensure no harassment is caused to the petitioner or any other person seeking to submit the nomination papers.

In a related development, the ECP has taken strong notice of the snatching of nomination forms from potential candidates and has sought necessary action against those responsible.

“It has been learnt through the media, and various complaints are also being received in this office regarding difficulties faced by potential candidates in receiving and submission of nomination papers. Snatching of nomination papers is also being reported in the media,” read separate but identical letters sent to provincial chief secretaries, inspectors general of police and provincial election commissioners with the signatures of ECP Secretary Omar Hamid Khan.

It said the commission has taken serious notice of the matter and directed that necessary action under the law must be taken, with intimation to the commission. Similar letters have also been sent to the chief commissioner and IG police, Islamabad, the Dawn report said.

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