ISLAMABAD -  The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday stayed proceedings of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan for his alleged violation of the election code of conduct during by-elections.

IHC judge Justice Aamer Farooq while restraining the ECP to proceed against Khan, also issued a notice. to the election watchdog. The court also directed the Attorney General of Pakistan to assist the court in this regard and deferred the hearing till May 15.

The PTI chief had moved the court through his counsel Babar Awan, challenging the ECP notifications, restraining political party heads, parliamentarians and others to participate in election campaigning for by-elections, and consequential proceeding against him for the violation of the impugned notifications.

The PTI chief had stated that being the head of a political party, he addresses various campaigns for bye-elections throughout the country and it was his right as guaranteed under the Article 16 of the Constitution regarding a peaceful assembly.

He adopted that under the Constitution, no restriction could be imposed on any person except for so demanded by the law and, if restrictions were imposed, those were just to maintain the public order.

Imran’s counsel argued that the restriction was only Imran Khan-specific as the treasury benches through the announcement of development projects could campaign for the same.

The PTI chairman through his counsel said that he and his party have a commendable record of holding peaceful and unarmed rallies, sit-ins for an unprecedented period of 126 days, which proves the fact that the petitioner and his party believe in the supremacy of law, the Constitution and the public order.

He said that the ECP on April 16, 2015, issued notifications whereby initially restrictions were imposed on the president, the prime minister, chief ministers, state ministers, governors and advisers to visit any constituency or give any subscription or donation in such constituencies. 

Later, he said, MNAs and MPAs were also included in the notifications. He said that the said notifications were challenged before a high court which declared them as null and void. 

Then, the ECP filed appeals before the Supreme Court and the apex court in September 2015 passed an interim order through which operation of the high court judgment was suspended and therefore the ECP notifications were revived.

Imran said that the ECP on February 6, 2017, issued notices to the petitioner for visiting different constituencies in the province of Punjab. He contended that these notices were wholly illegal, mala-fide and without lawful authority.

He argued that the petitioner was an aggrieved party because being the head of a political party he could not even visit constituencies during the campaign for by-elections.

The petitioner maintained that for all practical purposes and intent, it was the opposition which was put at disadvantage and these notifications were for the advantage of treasury benches.