Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief and ex Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. Image: AP
Pakistan's election commission on Tuesday deferred till August 2 the indictment of Imran Khan in a case linked to contempt of the top electoral body and its head after the former prime minister appeared before it in person for the first time. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) initiated contempt proceedings against Khan, 70, and former leaders of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, Asad Umar and Fawad Chaudhry last year for allegedly using “intemperate” language against the chief election commissioner and the electoral watchdog.
Tuesday's development came as the PTI chief appeared before the ECP for the first time since the case was taken up in October last year after the Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday directed the Islamabad police to arrest Khan and produce him before it on Tuesday.
However, instead of appearing before the ECP, the three had challenged the ECP notices and contempt proceedings in various high courts on the grounds that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017 -- which is the statutory provision related to the commission’s power to punish for contempt -- was against the Constitution.
The PTI leaders had also sought from the high courts a declaratory relief from the charges. But in January, the Supreme Court had allowed the ECP to continue proceedings against them and on June 21, the ECP had decided to frame charges against the trio.
In the July 11 hearing, they did not appear before the commission despite being summoned, following which the ECP issued arrest warrants for Chaudhry and Khan. It had, however, accepted a plea by Umar’s lawyer to allow him an exemption from the hearing.
During Tuesday's hearing, Khan appeared before the ECP bench alongside his counsel, Shoaib Shaheen. A member of the ECP bench stated that they had intended to indict the former prime minister in the case, the Dawn newspaper reported. However, the PTI chief’s counsel requested the electoral watchdog to defer the hearing as he needed more time to gather the case record, the paper said.
In response, the ECP asserted, “It is your responsibility to manage the file and case record.” Subsequently, the watchdog accepted the counsel’s plea and postponed the indictment until August 2. It also directed him to ensure Khan's presence during the next hearing.
After the hearing, Khan was asked by journalists if he would apologise to the commission. He responded by saying, “Do you think I should apologise? Why should I tender an apology when I did not make any mistake?” When a journalist asked if he would “take more U-turns”, Khan said he would “keep taking U-turns”.
Another journalist said that it seemed Imran had become a lawyer, to which the PTI chief said, “After so many cases, I have become a lawyer.” Khan has been facing scores of cases in various courts which were framed after he was removed from power in April last year. Chaudhry, once a diehard supporter of Khan, quit PTI after the May 9 violence following Khan's arrest in an alleged corruption case. On July 20, former PTI leader Chaudhry tendered an apology to the ECP in the contempt case filed against him by the electoral watchdog.
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