FILE PHOTO: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan gestures as he speaks to the members of the media at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan May 18, 2023. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File Photo
Pakistan’s jailed former prime minister, Imran Khan has lodged a challenge against his five-year disqualification in a Pakistani court on Thursday (7), ahead of the general elections due in February 2024.
Khan, 71, has been in jail since August 5, when he was arrested after a conviction in the Toshakhana corruption case.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) disqualified the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader for five years on October 21 in the wake of his conviction in the Toshakhana (national treasury gifts) case for concealing details of the gifts he received as premier during his tenure (2018-2022).
He subsequently got bail in the case. However, he was again arrested in the cipher case for allegedly leaking state secrets and violating the laws of the country.
Khan challenged his disqualification as according to his party, he wants to contest the polls.
“Khan filed two petitions in the Lahore High Court on Thursday praying the court to declare the impugned notification unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional,” Khan’s counsel Barrister Ali Zafar said.
“In one petition, he challenged ECP’s August notification in which the electoral body disqualified Imran Khan for five years on the pretext that Khan was found guilty of corrupt practices under Section 167 and had been convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment under Section 174 of the Act,” Zafar said.
He contended that firstly Section 232 of the Act has recently been amended vide Elections (Amendment) Act, 2023, as a result of which the ECP now has no power or jurisdiction at all to decide the question of qualification or disqualification of any member of Provincial Assembly and/or National Assembly.
Zafar further argued that when this notification of August 8, 2023, was issued, Khan was not a member of the National Assembly and therefore he cannot be disqualified from holding membership of the National Assembly preemptively.
He said until and unless Khan had taken oath as a member of the National Assembly, only then the ECP could have issued such a notification and that too under Article 63 only.
“The notification has been issued with malafide intention and shows the undue and unlawful haste and zeal of ECP to oust and eliminate Khan and his political party from taking part in the forthcoming general elections,” he said.
Zafar argued that in the case of Khan, not only his conviction is subject matter of an appeal before a high court and the conviction has not attained finality but also the sentence has been suspended by the high court.
He said the ECP notification is, hence, contrary to the Constitution as the same has been issued by the election body while ignoring the two-fold procedure as provided under Article 63(1)(h).
“Therefore, the court should declare the impugned notification as unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional and set aside it,” Zafar said.
Khan is currently jailed at the high-security Adiala prison in Rawalpindi since September 26 in the cipher case. He was ousted through a vote of no-confidence in April 2022.
More than 150 cases have been registered against him since his ouster from power.