Imran Khan-led PTI loses iconic ‘bat’ electoral symbol as Pak SC declares intra-party polls ‘null and void’

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court late Saturday night declared null and void the intra-party polls of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and deprived the party of the ‘bat’ as election symbol, settling the raging controversy over the award of the iconic electoral symbol.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had challenged the verdict of the two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) which on Wednesday restored the cricket bat as the electoral symbol of the PTI party while validating its elections.

A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Musarrat Hilali heard the ECP’s petition and reserved its judgment after the hearing, which was announced late Saturday night.

In the judgment read by the chief justice, the top court announced to “set aside the PHC judgment and restore the ECP judgment” that had invalidated the PTI intra-party elections and deprived the party of the ‘bat’ as its symbol.

The controversy over the election symbol started on December 22 when the ECP stripped the party of its electoral symbol for the February 8 election by rejecting its intra-party polls.

The party moved the Peshawar High Court which through an interim order on December 26 suspended the ECP ruling.

However, the decision was challenged by the election body and the high court reversed its ruling on January 3.

The PHC also announced that a two-member panel of judges would take up the issue of the PTI bat symbol for hearing.

The two-member panel issued its verdict restoring the ‘bat’ as a symbol of the PTI but the ECP challenged it in the apex court.

Bat is a traditional symbol of the PTI and it is believed that by depriving the party of its iconic symbol, its candidates would have to contest on separate symbols, creating confusion among the party supporters in remote areas on the day of elections.

Also, without a common symbol, the PTI would not get its share in the reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies which are divided into parties based on proportional representation of seats they won in the elections.

Expressing concern over the loss in the absence of a party symbol, Barrister Khan had said that there were over 225 such seats in the national and provincial assemblies and the PTI would suffer a colossal loss.

In reaction to the Supreme Court’s judgment, PTI’s Ali Zafar said history will judge the verdict of the top court but its immediate impact is that the PTI candidate would have to contest without a common symbol.

“The court has taken away the symbol but the party is still a registered entity. As per our policy, all our candidates will contest as independent candidates,” he said.

PTI chairman Barrister Gohar Khan, expressing dismay at the verdict, said the political rights of the PTI and its supporters were violated. “It is another bad judgment by the Supreme Court,” he said of the verdict which was announced two hours beyond its scheduled time.