The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday issued bailable arrest warrants for PTI chairman Imran Khan and party leaders Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar in cases related to the contempt of the electoral body.
The decision was made by a four-person ECP bench, which was headed over by Nisar Durrani.
Imran, Umar, Chaudhry, Mian Shabbir Ismail, and Danial Khalid Khokhar received notices from the ECP in August and September of last year for allegedly using “intemperate” language against Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja and the electoral watchdog.
Party leaders repeatedly call the electoral body a “subsidiary of the PML-N” and criticize the commission and Raja for what they consider to be their partisanship.
At the last hearing, the ECP had offered the PTI leaders one more opportunity to come before the panel, admonishing them that failure to do so will result in the issuing of arrest warrants at the subsequent hearing on January 17.
During the hearing today, the ECP rejected the pleas of PTI leaders seeking an exemption from appearing before the commission and issued arrest warrants for them against surety bonds worth Rs50,000 each.
The hearing was then delayed by the bench until January 17.
Reacting to the development, Umar tweeted that the ECP, instead of fulfilling its responsibilities, had indulged in such actions. “They themselves are guilty of contempt of court by not holding Islamabad elections,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chaudhry said he would file contempt of court proceedings against the electoral watchdog.
“The case was supposed to be heard on Jan 17 but it was fixed today in violation of the rules. This is another biased verdict issued by the ECP members,” he added.
Last year, when the ECP issued PTI leaders with notices of contempt, it told them to come before the commission in person or through counsel to defend their position.
The PTI leaders said that Section 10 of the Elections Act of 2017, which is the statute pertaining to the commission’s jurisdiction to penalize for contempt, violates the Constitution, but instead of appearing before the ECP, they disputed the ECP notices and contempt proceedings in several high courts.
According to the Election Act 2017, Section 10 titled “Power to punish for contempt” states that the “election commission may exercise the same power as the high court to punish any person for contempt of court and the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 (V of 2003), or any other law pertaining to contempt of court shall have effect accordingly.
The PTI leaders had also sought the high courts for a declaratory dismissal of the charges.
Later, a petition was submitted in the Supreme Court on behalf of the ECP by Advocate Sajeel Sheryar Swati, requesting that the six cases be consolidated before one high court rather than the commission’s position about the issuing of contempt notices against PTI leaders in various high courts.
The apex court had said last week that the objections to ECP power had to be heard and decided by ECP before issuing a final judgment on the subject because they had been filed by the respondents in the ongoing proceedings under Section 10.
The top court accepted ECP’s argument that it would be satisfied if the high courts were instructed to direct the outstanding petitions to be decided as soon as possible in response to ECP’s request to group together all cases pending against it before the high courts.