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ECP issues bailable arrest warrants for Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry & Asad Umar in cases related to contempt of the electoral body

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday issued bailable arrest warrants for Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf (PTI) Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan and party leaders Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar in cases related to the contempt of the electoral body.

The order was passed by a four-member ECP bench headed by Member ECP Sindh Nisar Ahmed Durrani and comprising Member ECP Balochistan Shah Muhammad Jatoi, Member ECP Punjab Babar Hassan Bharwana and Member ECP Khyber Pakhtunkwa Justice (retd) Ikramullah Khan.

It has directed the former prime minister and PTI bigwigs to submit surety bonds of Rs50,000 each to get bail. The ECP had reserved the verdict of the case some time ago.

The ECP had in August and September last year issued notices, in exercise of its powers of contempt, to Imran, Umar, Chaudhry, Mian Shabbir Ismail and Danial Khalid Khokhar for allegedly using “intemperate” language against Chief Election Commissioner Dr. Sikander Sultan Raja and the electoral watchdog.

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday issued bailable arrest warrants for Imran Khan and other 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.

According to details, the electoral watchdog has issued the warrants due to the failure of the concerned parties to appear before the commission in relation to the contempt proceedings being pursued against them. The bench, subsequently, adjourned the hearing till Jan 17. At the next hearing of the case the ECP will start the contempt of court proceedings against PTI leaders.

Reacting to the development, Asad Umar tweeted that the ECP, instead of fulfilling its responsibilities, had indulged in such actions. “They themselves are guilty of contempt of court by not holding Islamabad elections,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fawad Chaudhry said he would file contempt of court proceedings against the electoral watchdog. “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 at the Election Commission, lawyer Syed Muhammad 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 Khan 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.

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

Syed Muhammad 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.

When the ECP had issued contempt notices to PTI leaders last year, it had instructed them to appear in person or through their counsels before the commission to explain their position.

However, instead of appearing before the ECP, the PTI leaders challenged in various high courts the ECP notices and contempt proceedings on the grounds that Section 10 of the Elections Act 2017, which is the statutory provision regarding the commission’s power to punish for contempt, was against the Constitution.

According to the Election Act 2017, Section 10 titled “Power to punish for contempt” states that the “election commission may exercise the same power as the high court to punish any person for contempt of court and the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 (V of 2003), or any other law pertaining to contempt of court shall have effect accordingly[…]”

The PTI leaders had also sought from the high courts a declaratory relief from the charges.

Later, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court through Advocate Sajeel Sheryar Swati on behalf of the ECP with a request to order consolidation of all six petitions before one high court instead of defending the commission’s stance over the issuance of contempt notices against PTI leaders in different high courts.

Last week, the apex court had held that since the objections to ECP authority were raised by the respondents in the pending proceedings under Section 10, the same was required to be considered and decided by ECP before passing a final order on the matter.

Regarding ECP’s request to club together all petitions pending against it before the high courts, the top court accepted the ECP plea that it would be satisfied if the high courts were directed to decide the pending petitions at the earliest.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had also allowed the electoral body to go ahead with contempt proceedings against Khan, Umar and Fawad.