Imran challenges ECP ban on electioneering by party heads

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad

Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) challenging notifications of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) imposing bar on party heads, MNAs, MPAs and the government functionaries to visit any area of any constituency or give any subscription or donation in such constituencies.
At the time PTI chief had filed the petition, Prime Minister was visiting Layyah, a district in Punjab as part of his election campaign and to inaugurate for the third time Layyah-Taunsa bridge. Earlier, he inaugurated the same bridge which was never constructed in 1990 and 1997.
Chairman PTI has cited ECP through Chairman and Director General (Elections) of ECP as respondent in his petition pleading that being head of a political party, he addresses different campaigns for bye-elections throughout the country and it is his right guaranteed under article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan regarding peaceful assembly.
According to the petitioner, under the Constitution, no restriction could be imposed on any person except under the law and if restrictions were imposed those were just to maintain public order.
Chairman PTI has argued that his party and he had a commendable record of holding peaceful and unarmed rallies, sit-ins for an unprecedented period of 126 days, which proves the fact that the petitioner and his party believed in supremacy of law, Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 and public order”.
It is to his surprise that ECP on April 16, 2015 issued notifications whereby initially restrictions were imposed on President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, State Minister, Governors and Advisors to visit any area of any constituency or give any subscription or donation in such constituencies.
Later, MNAs and MPAs were also included in this notification. The said notifications were challenged before a high court that declared them null and void. Later, ECP filed appeals before Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Hearing the appeal, apex court in September 2015 passed an interim order through suspending operation of the high court judgment and therefore the ECP notification was revived.
The ECP on February 6, 2017 issued notices to the petitioner (Khan) for visiting different constituencies in the province of Punjab. According to the petitioner, these notices were totally illegal, malafide and without lawful authority. The petitioner was an aggrieved party because being head of a political party, he could not even visit constituencies during the campaign for bye-elections.
The petitioner has further submitted that for all the practical purposes and intent, Opposition was put at disadvantage and these notifications were meant for the advantage of treasury benches. The petitioner has requested the court to declare the notifications and proceedings pending before the notifications at ECP null and void and illegal.

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