ISLAMABAD - After foot-dragging and repeated failure to appear before the Election Commission of Pakistan in a contempt of court case, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan on Monday decided to ‘voluntarily’ appear before the ecp on October 26.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the party’s core group after the ECP issued non-bailable arrest warrants for the PTI chief in the contempt of court case.

The PTI meeting also lashed out at Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Sardar Muhammad Raza for “only victimising the party in the foreign funding case.”

The ECP in its order said the PTI chairman should be arrested and brought to the next hearing in the contempt case filed by a party dissident and one of the founding members, Akbar S Babar. The commission had issued the order against Khan for repeatedly failing to appear and send a written apology to the ECP over his absence.

An announcement made by the PTI after the core group meeting chaired by Khan said the party chairman would go to the ECP voluntarily on October 26 without prejudice to PTI’s stance on the issue of contempt taken before the Islamabad High Court challenging the jurisdiction of the ECP on contempt.

“The primary job of the ECP is to hold fair and free elections and enforce the electoral laws and election code of conduct,” the core group said, adding it categorically finds that the ECP has failed entirely in this regard. “The core group feels the chief election commissioner must realise the genuine grievances of the PTI regarding several events and actions and in some cases inaction during hearings against the party as well as its chairman,” it said.

The core group pointed out that the lessons should have been learnt through 40 critical points as well as recommendations made by the Judicial Commission in the 2013 general election rigging case. The PTI deplored that the commission had ignored all of these recommendations in all subsequent bye-polls.

In addition, the CEC has sought to scrutinise only PTI accounts, its funding, and overseas membership despite the fact that it is one of the few political parties submitting details of all its accounts every year before the ECP, the meeting said. It said the CEC ignored grave violations of the election laws and code by the PML-N in bye-elections like NA-120 and earlier in NA-122 that also led to serious issues. The core group pointed out if the PTI, as a political party, cannot even state its concerns and criticise the CEC, this will be a direct undermining of democratic political norms.

The core group meeting was attended by Jehangir Khan Tareen, Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Dr Shireen Mazari, Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, Ijaz Chaudhry, Aleem Khan, Naeemul Haq and others.

Earlier on September 14, the ECP issued bailable arrest warrants for the PTI chairman after he failed to appear before the ECP in person for the contempt of court proceedings. However, the arrest warrants were later suspended by the IHC on a PTI petition.

The ECP had initiated contempt of court proceedings against Khan on the application of Babar after he accused the commission of being partial in the foreign funding case. The PTI claims the ECP has no jurisdiction of initiating contempt of court proceedings while the commission insisted it enjoys such powers.