ECP Negates PTI's Claim Of Denying Level-Playing Field

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa will hear PTI's contempt petition against the ECP on Monday, as the commission seeks dismissal of the petition for lack of evidence

ECP Negates PTI's Claim Of Denying Level-Playing Field

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has informed the Supreme Court that contrary to claims, it has accepted 76.18% of nomination papers filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidates for the national and provincial assemblies, providing them a level playing field.

"The statistical data shows that the PTI candidates, their proposers and seconders were provided a level playing field, and this data negates the version of petitioner (PTI)," said the ECP.

The ECP's statement was included in a formal reply the commission has submitted before the Supreme Court.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, has issued the notices to the Punjab chief secretary and Punjab Inspector General of Police for Monday. The notices were issued as the bench heard an application filed by the PTI, seeking contempt proceedings against the ECP for allegedly failing to uphold the court's directives on ensuring a level playing field for all parties. 

The bench is expected to take up the matter for hearing today (Monday). 

In its reply, the ECP further stated that for the nomination papers rejected, it received just 33 complaints from PTI from across the country between December 22, 2023, and January 3, 2024. 

Of these, 16 complaints were received in Punjab, five in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and four complaints were received in Sindh. However, no complaint was filed from Balochistan. The ECP claimed that action had been taken on all the complaints. 

ECP stated that the PTI's allegations regarding the non-provision of a level playing field are negated by the statistical data obtained from the offices of Returning Officers (ROs).

"The statistical data obtained from the offices of Returning Officers shows that a total of 843 candidates of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf submitted nomination papers for the National Assembly election, out of which 598 have been accepted whereas 245 have been rejected by the ROs," the ECP stated. There are a total of 245 seats up for grabs in the National Assembly. Moreover, what the ECP failed to mention was that among the nomination papers rejected were PTI's heavyweight first-choice candidates such as former chairman Imran Khan, among others.

"Similarly, the candidates of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf have submitted 1,777 nomination papers for the election to the Provincial Assemblies, out of which 1398 have been accepted whereas 379 have been rejected."

It has further stated that the aggrieved candidates have a remedy under section 63 of the Elections Act, 2017, to file an appeal before the Appellate Tribunal. 

"The data shows that the nomination papers of the candidates were received by the Returning Officers, and proposers and seconders were also present at the time of scrutiny."

The commission further contended that PTI has been unable to provide any proof that the ECP defied the top court's December 22 order in any manner whatsoever. 

"The commission has already submitted a compliance report on 26-12-2023. Therefore, no contempt of this court is established as contemplated under Article 204 of the Constitution of Pakistan (the Constitution); the contempt petition ex-fäcie is not maintainable."

The ECP has requested the top court to dismiss the contempt petition with cost as it is without any substance.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain