Updated January 14th, 2024 at 13:49 IST

Imran Khan's PTI Loses its Iconic 'Bat' Symbol After Pak SC's Verdict | What Comes Next?

The Supreme Court of Pakistan deprived the former ruling party of its famous electoral symbol - bat - just days before the country is scheduled to go to polls.

Reported by: Bhagyasree Sengupta
Supporters of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party. | Image:AP/KM Chaudary
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Islamabad - In a major blow to Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Saturday annulled the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) January 10 order and deprived the former ruling party of its famous electoral symbol - bat - just days before the country is scheduled to go to polls. A three-member bench which was headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali — announced the verdict after a day-long hearing, Geo News reported. 

The verdict from the apex court came days after the Peshawar High Court (PHC) ordered to reinstate the “bat” as the party's electoral symbol. In light of the Peshawar verdict, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) filed a petition in the Supreme Court calling the PHC verdict “illegal, without any lawful authority and of no legal effect”. The verdict means that the PTI ticket holders would have to contest the elections as independent candidates with their respective symbols. The contention over the party symbol started in December last year after the ECP barred the party from using the bat symbol citing irregularities in their internal polls. The electoral watchdog accused PTI of not complying with the party's own constitution and election laws.

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What happened at the 2-day marathon hearing

While announcing the party the CJP dismissed PTI's claims that ECP is targeting the party. Justice Isa mentioned that the ECP has been calling upon the PTI to hold its intra-party elections since May 24, 2021 - when the party was in government in the federal and some provinces. “Therefore, it cannot be stated that ECP was victimising PTI. Nonetheless, we wanted to satisfy ourselves that the ECP had not acted mala fide of ulterior reason or that PTI was discriminated against; it transpired that the ECP had passed orders against 13 other registered political parties which were far more severe than the order passed against PTI," Justice Isa averred. “ECP wanted to ensure that PTI holds intra-party elections. The mere production of a certificate stating that such elections were held would not suffice to establish that intra-party elections had been held when a challenge was thrown to such an assertion. Nor, in our opinion, should ECP concern itself with minor irregularities in the holding of a political party’s elections. However, in the instant case not even prima facie evidence was produced to show that a semblance of elections had been held," the judgement further reads. 

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The court also mentioned that 14 PTI members, with stated credentials, had complained to ECP that elections had not been held. The court noted that these complaints were “brushed aside" by the party in their writ petition by simply stating that the members in question were not part of PTI and thus were not entitled to contest elections.  A day before the verdict came out CJP Isa had observed that democracy was a fundamental right which should be present in both the country and the political party. 

PTI to file a review appeal against the decision

Following the verdict, PTI’s Barrister Gohar Khan stated that the party would file an appeal against the verdict and expressed hopes that it would be reversed. While speaking to the media on Thursday, Gohar mentioned that the withdrawal of the party’s electoral symbol would lead to the loss of 227 reserve seats and went on to describe the Pakistani system as “corrupt”. Gohar reiterated that none of the 14 petitioners had ever been PTI members  “None of the 837,950 members has raised objections on party polls," he stressed. “While we accept the apex court’s decision, we are confident that people will respond to Imran’s call on election day," he added. 

However, during the hearing, the apex court noted that the election of Barrister Gohar as the new chairman of the party has become questionable as well. “Barrister Gohar’s own election has become questionable. If the PTI founder had given a certificate, then it would have been another situation,” the chief justice remarked. In response to these remarks, the PTI counsel responded that the certificate needed to be issued by the incumbent party chairman which was Imran Khan. The party insisted that the certificate could not be issued since the former Pakistani premier is currently serving a prison sentence.  

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Published January 14th, 2024 at 13:49 IST