ECP says Imran Khan is ‘not prisoner of conscience’

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Monday said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan is not a “prisoner of conscience” as claimed by the party and rather Khan is “incarcerated as he is accused in various cases” including the one related to the misuse of a diplomatic cypher.

ECP statement comes in response to the PTI’s claim that its chairman, former prime minister Imran Khan, is a ‘prisoner of conscience’.

“Former PM & Chairman Imran Khan is currently incarcerated as a prisoner of conscience,” the PTI stated in its 24-point Charter of Demand.

The charter was sent to the ECP on Nov 6 by PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan. On Nov 22, the ECP issued terse responses to each of the 24 points of the charter, stating: “Former PM & Chairman Imran Khan is in jail in different cases including [the] cypher case.”

The term ‘prisoner of conscience’ refers to a person who has been put in prison for holding political or religious views that are not tolerated in the state he/she lives in.

The PTI also claimed that it is being victimised and persecuted as a political entity. The ECP, however, washed its hands of any responsibility in this regard, stating that “it has no role” in this alleged victimisation.

The ECP reiterated the “no-role” statement in response to the PTI’s claim that its leaders were coerced into giving interviews and statements against the party and parting ways with it.

The polls oversight authority clarified that it could not refrain any political leader from joining or leaving any political party.

To the party’s claim that it was not getting a level-playing field, the ECP said it had already issued directions to all caretaker governments for providing a level-playing field to all.

When the PTI pointed out that the general elections were not taking place within the constitutionally stipulated period of 90 days, the ECP said the issue had been deliberated by the Supreme Court. The ECP said it had set Feb 8, 2024 as the election date in consultation with the president on the order of the court.

When the PTI alleged that the caretaker governments were actively involved in pre-poll rigging against the PTI, the ECP simply reiterated that it had already issued directions to the caretaker governments and “the PTI should come up with specific and concrete proposals/evidence” in support of its claims.

The PTI had apprised the ECP that the former government released Rs51 billion for development schemes of its MNAs in the last one month of the previous government.

The ECP, however, noted that the schemes were approved and funds were released before the dissolution of the assemblies. The PTI found transferring funds to interim governments illegal.

The ECP responded that it had already issued necessary directions and guidelines in this regard to the caretaker governments.

The PTI had urged the ECP to issue instructions to the relevant authorities to allow the party to conduct political meetings.

The ECP responded, “All political parties will be provided a level-playing field during the forthcoming elections.”

The PTI had pointed out that the ANP was allowed to conduct a meeting in Hangu recently and 183 security personnel provided security to the rally but on the same day, the PTI was denied permission to hold a political meeting on the pretext of insufficient security.

It highlighted the irony that on that day, 283 policemen were used to baton-charge the PTI workers. The ECP, however, stated that it “will ensure” that all political parties “will be” allowed to hold public rallies and gatherings.

Without naming PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, the PTI had raised objection to a convicted and absconder prisoner being given unprecedented protocol and permission to hold public meetings.

The ECP reiterated that the issue will be taken up.

“Manufacturers are not allowed to produce PTI materials [flags and materials],” the PTI had written. The ECP stated, “The PTI should come up with specific and concrete evidence.”

To the PTI’s request that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) should be instructed to give as much airtime to the PTI and Imran as the PML-N and other parties are enjoying, the ECP said the matter will be taken up with the caretaker federal government.

On the election schedule, the ECP wrote that it would be announced after the publication of the final list of the constituencies.

To the PTI’s statement that delimitation was being used as a delaying tactic by the ECP, the polls body said it had to take into consideration provisions of Articles 17, 218(3), 219, 222(b), 254 of the Constitution and Section 17(2) of the Elections Act, 2017.

“After extensive deliberations on the matter under reference under the advice of its legal experts/team, the ECP unanimously decided to carry out delimitation of constituencies as mandated under the law and the Constitution, so that afterwards free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections could be ensured,” it said.


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