PTI founding member Akbar S. Babar on Tuesday moved the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against the party’s intra-party elections, alleging they were “rigged and fraudulent”.
The polls had taken place on Saturday in accordance with the directives issued by the ECP, with Barrister Gohar Ali Khan elected as the new party chairman after being nominated by Imran Khan.
However, the party was on the receiving end of sharp criticism over the polls as Babar announced that he would challenge the whole process in a court of law. He had alleged the PTI had carried out a selection process aimed at throwing out party workers in order to give the reins to a few lawyers. Separately, the leaders of the country’s mainstream parties, including the PML-N and PPP, also questioned the legitimacy of the intra-party elections.
Today, Babar penned a letter to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja. He said that after the commission directed the party to hold the polls, the PTI core committee issued a press release saying that preparations were complete and announced Niazullah Niazi as the PTI CEC.
Babar said the press release did not mention any other names of the PTI Federal Election Commission or share other details of the polls such as the election rules, regulations, detailed schedule of elections, nomination timeline and various other aspects.
He added that the press release also did not specify the vote-counting process or the announcement of election results, further saying that no such information was available on the PTI website until polling day.
Babar said that on Dec 1, he visited the PTI Central Secretariat in Islamabad in the afternoon with other party members but the party representative present at the site had “expressed his helplessness in sharing the required information (nomination papers, voter lists and rules and regulations of the elections) as none existed”.
Commenting on the day of the election, Babar said: “A crowd of a few scores of people, without any prior authentication regarding their status in the party, were assembled in an undisclosed location in Peshawar who shouted: ‘We accept, we accept’.
“The charade was filmed and shown on national television. The same day before noon, the election results were announced to the media. All the candidates were elected unopposed,” he said.
Babar said that “in the absence of basic rules of elections […] the entire intra-party election was a mere eye wash and a vain attempt to hoodwink the ECP”.
He said the “fraudulent” process had “disenfranchised” PTI members from participating in the intra-party elections in clear violation of ECP laws.
Babar added that even representatives of independent organisations such as Pildat had expressed “serious reservations about the transparency” of the intra-party polls.
The founding PTI member said he was left with no other choice than to approach the electoral watchdog and request that it declare the intra-party elections “null and void” while also issuing fresh directives for holding new polls as soon as possible.
Considering the PTI’s “chequered history” in holding intra-party elections, Babar suggested that the ECP appoint independent third-party monitors to review and oversee the process.
Babar further said that the party’s election symbol of the bat be held in abeyance until it conducted transparent polls in accordance with the law.
“It is time that the charade of holding rigged and manipulated intra-party elections must end. All major political parties must be vigorously scrutinised under the relevant laws to allow credible and competent leadership to emerge from within political parties. This is the only way forward for democracy to deliver and meet the challenges confronting society,” he said.
Talking to the media in Islamabad outside the ECP, Babar lashed out at the PTI leadership and questioned why it did not provide a level playing field to its workers.
“Why don’t you give them the right to elect their leadership? You talk about a level playing field, why don’t you provide it in your home and to your party members?” he asked.
He said many other PTI workers, founding members and leaders were with him who had also submitted separate petitions against the intra-party polls to “save the bat”.
Babar said he and those with him wanted to play the role of a “bridge” between the PTI and ECP with the stance that the party be given another chance to hold transparent polls instead of being denied its election symbol.
“We are actually out to save the bat,” he stressed.
Various other petitions were also submitted to the ECP along similar lines as Babar’s with the mutual demands of declaring the intra-party elections without effect and orders for the exercise to be carried out anew.