The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday issued bailable arrest warrants for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and senior party leaders, Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry, for failing to appear before the commission in contempt proceedings.

The applications seeking exemption from attendance were rejected by the ECP, while all three parties have been ordered to submit bonds worth Rs50,000 each.

The electoral watchdog issued the warrants due to their failure to appear before the commission in relation to the contempt proceedings being pursued against them.

It may be noted that the electoral watchdog had summoned the PTI chief and the other two senior party leaders in continuation of contempt proceedings against them.

The ECP had initiated contempt proceedings against Imran as well as his party leaders Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry for constantly issuing statements against the electoral body and its chief election commissioner.

The PTI had moved the Supreme Court against the ECP, arguing that Article 204 only empowered the higher judiciary with contempt of court and that the commission was not a court.

However, in December last year, the apex court had permitted the ECP to continue the contempt proceedings against the former premier and his fellow party leaders.

The warrants were issued by a four-member bench headed by member Nisar Durrani.

In August last year, the ECP had issued a contempt notice to the PTI leaders for insulting the commission and its chief during various public meetings, press conferences and several interviews.

The notice charged that they “insulted and passed unparliamentary, intemperate and contemptuous remarks against the electoral body on various occasions.”

The bench, while rejecting the PTI leaders’ pleas for exemption, directed them today to appear before it on the next hearing which is scheduled on January 17. 

The commission had reserved the verdict on their pleas on January 3.

Fawad to challenge warrants 

Soon after the verdict, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry announced that he would challenge the warrants in high court and file a contempt plea against ECP. 

“ECP’s decision to issue arrest warrants is contempt of high court’s decision,” said Fawad. He said that the case was scheduled for January 17 and the verdict was announced today in violation of the rules.

The PTI leader said that it was a “biased” decision of the ECP.  

During the last hearing, lawyer Ali Bukhari appeared on behalf of PTI leaders and took the stand that Fawad’s mother was seriously ill and he was in a hospital in Lahore with her. Also, his brother Faisal Chaudhry is a lawyer in this case and both brothers are with their mother at present. 

He continued that Imran Khan has not yet been allowed to travel.

To this, an ECP member inquired about his medical report which claims that the PTI chief was not able to travel. The PTI lawyer promised to submit the report before the bench.

Moreover, the member of the commission said that he had not yet responded to the show cause, directing him to submit the application for an exemption from attendance.

Asad Umar’s lawyer Anwar Mansoor said that the PTI secretary general was to attend the hearing but he could not make it to the federal capital. He contended, “We have applied against the show cause notice, all the three cases are of the same nature. The hearing will be held together and I will give a mandatory reply to the show cause on the next date.”

On the occasion, the ECP DG law had said that he had written in the show cause notice that it had been issued from the Election Commission.

The ECP bench said that warrants were being issued for the appearance of the parties. To this, lawyer Ali Bukhari said that if a warrant was issued, then their application would not be heard.

Anwar Mansoor argued that instead of the warrant, ECP should make it the final appearance.

Ali Bukhari said that if they do not appear on the next appearance, then a warrant should be issued. The ECP member said that “we will order on this”, after which the hearing of the case was adjourned till January 17.

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