Pakistan poll panel starts process to remove Khan as party chief

Case relates to allegations that Khan bought gifts given by foreign dignitaries from the state depository but did not disclose them before the poll panel.

Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan (R) addresses his supporters during an anti-government march towards capital Islamabad, demanding early elections, in Gujranwala on November 1, 2022. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)
The Election Commission of Pakistan in a unanimous decision in October found Khan guilty of 'corrupt practices' [File: Arif Ali/AFP]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s election commission has initiated a process to remove former Prime Minister Imran Khan as the chairman of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party over “false statements and incorrect declaration”.

The case relates to allegations that Khan bought gifts given by foreign dignitaries from the state depository (called Toshakhana in Urdu) and did not disclose them in declarations submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Tuesday’s move against Khan follows an order the ECP passed in October when it found Khan guilty of “corrupt practices” and disqualified him from a parliament seat he won in 2018.

A notice has been sent to the former prime minister and the case will be next heard on December 13.

PTI politician Babar Awan, a lawyer who has represented Khan in various cases, told Al Jazeera the ECP is “merely a regulator of elections” and that it cannot stop a person from holding party office.

He said Khan was allowed to contest seven parliamentary seats in October by-elections, which “obviously means he is also qualified to be the party head”. Khan won all the seven seats.

Supporters of Imran Khan join a protest march towards Islamabad
Khan’s supporters during a protest march towards Islamabad, in Gujranwala, Pakistan [File: Rahat Dar/EPA]

Awan added that what happened with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would not apply to Khan.

Sharif, Khan’s political rival, was declared “dishonest” by the Supreme Court in a ruling in 2018, resulting in his removal from office and being barred from parliamentary politics for life. He was subsequently removed as the head of his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

“The decision against Sharif was given by the Supreme Court, and not the ECP,” Awan argued, accusing the election commission of acting as a “tool” of the ruling alliance instead of performing its constitutional duties.

Lahore-based lawyer and constitutional expert Abuzar Salman Niazi said Khan’s case differs from Sharif’s.

“If ECP concludes that Khan cannot remain the party head, it will be only till the end of the current term of assembly, which is expected to be completed by late next year,” Niazi said.

“But since his disqualification was not applicable on the seats he won in by-elections in October, he has a strong case and good grounds to defend himself.”

Source: Al Jazeera