Thursday, March 09, 2023
ISLAMABAD: In an unusual development, Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has expressed "satisfaction" after a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja.
"Today's meeting was held in a positive atmosphere. He [Raja] heard us out with patience. We, also, noted down his points and we will also share them with our chairman [Imran Khan]," PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said during a press conference after the meeting in Islamabad.
The former foreign minister said that the PTI would also "try to facilitate" the election commission with a sole objective: achieving "free, fair, and credible elections" — a long-standing demand of the party.
Apart from Qureshi, the PTI delegation that met the chief election commissioner comprised Secretary General Asad Umar and spokesperson on legal issues Maleeka Bokhari.
The party's vice chairman added that the delegation also informed the CEC of its concerns, including the violence in Lahore — after the administration imposed Section 144 (barring public gatherings) and the subsequent death of a PTI worker during the alleged clash with police.
"Right when were about to start our rally, the Lahore administration imposed Section 144. On one hand, our party worker is being killed, and on the other, cases are being registered against us — this is unprecedented," he said.
Raising concerns over the caretaker setups in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Qureshi said that if the interim government picks returning officers (ROs) for elections, then "could they be neutral?"
He said that the delegation also asked the CEC if ROs could be appointed through the courts and discussions were also held about the security arrangments for polling stations.
The PTI's meeting with the chief election commissioner is unusual as the party has blamed the CEC and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for favouring the parties in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
PTI Chairman Imran Khan has, at times, termed Raja as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) agent. He had blamed the CEC for being unfair and disqualifying him unjustly.
The party has also repeatedly moved the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for the removal of Raja as the head of ECP — although he was appointed during PTI's tenure.
The meeting also holds importance as it comes days after the election commission issued bailable arrest warrants for two key PTI leaders — Imran Khan and Fawad Chaudhry — in a case pertaining to "contemptuous" remarks against CEC Raja.
A four-member bench — comprising ECP members Nisar Ahmed Durrani, Shah Mohammad Jatoi, Babar Hasan Bharwana, and Justice (retd) Ikram Ullah Khan — issued the order following the non-appearance of the leaders in the case proceedings.
“Consequently, in the circumstances of the case, we have left with no alternative except to issue a bailable warrant of arrest against respondent in the sum of Rs50,000 (fifty thousand) with two sureties in the like amount each,” the verdict issued by the ECP read.