Pakistan court restores jailed ex-PM Imran Khan’s party election symbol

Khan’s party claimed the election body’s move was aimed at preventing him from contesting the February 8 polls.

People walk past an image of cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at a market
People walk past an image of cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, at a market in Islamabad [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

A court in Pakistan has ruled that former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party can contest elections using its cricket bat logo – a relief for the jailed opposition leader in advance of national elections.

The High Court in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday suspended last week’s order by the Election Commission of Pakistan, barring Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from using its election symbol.

“The election commission’s ruling against PTI, in which its election symbol, the cricket bat, was unjustly revoked through an illegal order, has been suspended,” said PTI lawyer Syed Ali Zafar.

“It has been further directed that our symbol be reinstated,” he said.

In a nation where the adult literacy rate is just 58 percent, according to World Bank data, election symbols are vital campaign tools for differentiating candidates on ballot papers.

The election commission said it made the move because of the party’s failure to hold internal elections in accordance with its constitution.

But the PTI said the move was another jab to prevent Khan – a former cricket star – from contesting the election, scheduled on February 8.

Khan, who enjoys support from a vast number of Pakistanis, was removed as prime minister last year after falling out with Pakistan’s powerful military leaders.

He is currently in prison and faces numerous cases, including the charge that he leaked classified state documents – a crime that carries a prison term of up to 14 years or even the death penalty.

Since Khan’s arrest earlier this year, PTI has faced a heavy crackdown by the government, with many party figures either jailed or “forced” to leave the party allegedly under the pressure of the military.

On Friday, PTI said it had filed Khan’s nomination papers for him to contest the general election.

But the nomination may be challenged based on the electoral commission having disqualified him from office over a corruption conviction earlier this year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies