Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan’s nomination papers were rejected for a National Assembly constituency from Punjab’s capital and his home city, Mianwali, officials of the provincial election commission confirmed Saturday.
The former prime minister had filed his nomination papers from Lahore’s NA-122 and Mianwali’s NA-89 constituencies ahead of the upcoming polls slated for February 8, 2024, while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif’s papers have been accepted for NA-130 in Lahore.
The development comes as a major blow to the party whose leadership is facing a plethora of cases — especially pertaining to the May 9 riots — with senior leaders, including Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi and others, behind bars.
“The PTI founder has been convicted,” the returning officer (RO) assigned to scrutinise the nomination papers of the NA-122 constituency said, explaining the basis of the decision, dealing a blow to the PTI ahead of the polls.
The objections, raised by PML-N’s Mian Naseer, had referred to Khan’s five-year disqualification in the Toshakhana case wherein the electoral body had found him guilty of corrupt practices under Section 167 of the Elections Act, 2017.
“PTI founder’s proposer and seconder do not belong from NA-122,” the objection added.
From Toshakhana’s disqualification to having an illegitimate daughter and defaulting on Rs3.6 million social security funds, multiple objections were raised on Khan’s nomination papers filed from his NA-89 Mianwali stronghold — a constituency which he has won previous elections from.
Concurring with the objections, the returning officer rejected the former prime minister’s nomination papers
Separately, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also rejected PTI Vice Chairman Qureshi’s nomination papers from Multan’s NA-150, NA-151, PP-218, and Tharparkar’s NA-214.
Meanwhile, former federal minister and PTI leader Hammad Azhar’s nomination papers were rejected from PP-172.
However, all is not lost for the PTI founder and his associates as they can appeal against the rejection of their nomination papers by January 3, which will be decided upon by the Appellate Tribunal by January 10. The electoral body will publish the revised list of candidates on January 11.
With the nomination papers of Azam Swati and Zulfi Bukhari also rejected earlier in the day, the party is facing legal and political challenges on multiple fronts.
Apart from hundreds of Maintenance of Public Order (3-MPO) notifications issued as part of a nationwide crackdown against workers and leaders in relation to their alleged involvement in May 9 incidents — triggered after Khan’s arrest in a graft case and which saw military installations being vandalised — the former ruling party is also at risk of losing its electoral symbol “bat” altogether.
Earlier in the day, the ECP filed a review petition in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) against its order that had suspended the electoral body’s verdict of stripping the party of its electoral symbol on account of irregularities in intra-party polls.
The court, in its verdict, had restored the PTI’s “bat” symbol. However, if the ECP’s review petition — seeking the case to be fixed before a division bench — succeeds in overturning the court’s earlier ruling, the party might again end up in utter disarray with no electoral symbol.