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ECP issues non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran

ECP issues non-bailable arrest warrants for Imran

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on contempt charges by a majority decision of 3-2.

The warrants were issued following Mr Khan’s continuous failure to appear before the commission on the show-cause notice issued on Aug 24 over his “defaming and scandalising” the ECP in the foreign-funding case.

Hours after the issuance of the warrants, Mr Khan told a TV channel that he would not appear before the commission and was instead ready to be arrested.

He also told Channel 92 that he would give up the leadership of the PTI and even politics if the Supreme Court disqualified him.

PTI lawyer says party will challenge decision

The contempt application was filed on Jan 23 this year by the PTI’s founding member and former vice president Akbar S. Babar, who developed differences with Mr Khan in 2011 over alleged internal corruption and illegal funding of the PTI. The ECP verdict was announced a day after a three-member larger bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the ECP to proceed on the contempt application.

On Thursday, the hearing of the contempt application was delayed slightly due to the absence of the member of the ECP from Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa (KP) who was out of town. The 3-2 verdict in favour of issuing non-bailable arrest warrants for Mr Khan was announced by an ECP spokesman shortly after deliberations by all five commission members.

Informed sources told Dawn that the chief election commissioner and members from Balochistan and KP decided to issue warrants while members from Punjab and Sindh dissented with the majority opinion.

The ECP also took notice of a fresh contempt application filed against Mr Khan on Sept 25 and directed him to file a reply by Oct 26, which has been fixed as the next date of hearing. The commission directed the authorities concerned to arrest Mr Khan and present him before it on Oct 26.

The fresh contempt application was also filed by Mr Babar who accused Mr Khan of defaming the ECP in a press briefing outside Karachi airport on Sept 20 while his lawyer Babar Awan was telling the IHC bench that Imran Khan had all the respect for ECP.

Talking to reporters, the PTI chief’s counsel termed the ECP orders unlawful and said that the decision would be challenged in the high court concerned.

“A new warrant is issued in the same case in which a [bailable] warrant was already suspended. We will also look into whether this is contempt of the IHC’s full bench or not, and then we will challenge it,” said PTI member and lawyer Babar Awan.

Earlier on Sept 14, the ECP had issued bailable arrest warrants against Imran Khan following his failure to show up for the contempt of court proceedings, which were later suspended by the IHC on the PTI’s petition.

Mr Awan said all the political parties had alleged massive rigging in the 2013 elections but the PTI and its chairman had been singled out by the ECP.

Khursheed Shah’s advice

In a related development, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah advised Imran Khan to appear before the ECP.

In a statement, he said that Mr Khan should appear before the commission to demonstrate that he gave due respect to institutions.

Commenting on the perpetual issue of lack of quorum in the National Assembly, Mr Shah said people must not vote for those who were not serious about the lawmaking process and did not attend the sessions regularly.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2017

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