LAHORE - The Lahore High Court yesterday suspended a notification of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) which barred lawmakers from campaigning for the upcoming by-elections. The LHC gave the ruling on a plea by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). PTI had moved the court when the ECP issued a notification barring lawmakers from canvassing for other candidates after PTI chairman Imran Khan announced to take part in the electoral drive.

Justice Ayesha A Malik after hearing arguments suspended the notification and adjourned the case for two weeks.

Shoaib Siddique of PTI had challenged the notification submitting that the impugned notification was in sheer violation of fundamental rights and norms of democracy. 

The petitioner’s counsels Advocates Hamid Khan and Ahmed Awais contended that PTI chairman Imran Khan was a member of the National Assembly and by virtue of the ban he was restrained from visiting any political constituency where by-elections are scheduled.

The petitioner also said that leaders visiting constituencies, addressing electorates and meeting party workers is the integral part of any electoral campaign. He further submitted that the ECP’s notification restrained the party’s activism, which is the core value of any parliamentary democracy and prayed the court to cancel the notification of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Shortly after the LHC’s order, Khan took to Twitter announcing that he would campaign for his party’s candidate for the upcoming NA-122 by-election. Khan claimed that the ECP’s “undemocratic electoral rule (was) specifically made to keep him from campaigning”. Khan has decided to start campaign for by-election in NA-122 in first week of October. He will be campaigning from October 5 to October 9.

In an interview PTI’s candidate in NA-122, Aleem Khan has said that Imran would reach Lahore on October 5 after addressing rally in the federal capital on October 4. He would address different electoral seminars in the provincial capital, he added. Meanwhile, Pakistan Awami Tehreek filed a petition in the Lahore High Court challenging the use of government’s machinery in the constituencies where by-elections are due. It has also questioned the violation of the code of conduct set by ECP.

The party says that voters are being harassed by police while development funds have also been supplied to the constituencies where elections are scheduled. It is clear violation of the code of conduct of the ECP, he submits. The petitioner has prayed the court to stop officials who are using machinery and funds to support candidates of the ruling party.

Meanwhile, Advocate Munsif Awan, the candidate of by-election of NA-122, has filed an application in the Election Commission of Pakistan to change the returning officer. The petitioner through his counsel Advocate Azhar Siddique has pointed out that retuning officer Zahid Iqbal is backing the candidates of the ruling party. The petitioner has also alleged that it is totally unjustified that an official of the ECP instead of observing impartiality in his services is favoring the ruling party. He has requested the Chief Election Commissioner and Punjab Election Commissioner to remove him from the office.