ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has announced its intent to challenge the decision by Pakistan’s election regulator to revoke its election symbol, a cricket bat. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) took this action after a disgruntled PTI leader raised concerns about the party’s intraparty elections, urging the watchdog to nullify the exercise.

The ECP declared the PTI’s intraparty elections held in June 2022 as invalid last month, giving the party 20 days to reorganize the contest to retain the cricket bat as its election symbol. Despite electing Barrister Gohar Khan as chairman and other office bearers and submitting the results to the election commission, the ECP ruled on Friday that the PTI had not complied with its directions and failed to hold intraparty elections according to the party’s constitution, the Election Act, 2017, and Election Rules, 2017.

In response, a PTI spokesperson described the ECP’s decision as “flawed, illegal, biased, and a serious attack on the transparency of the elections.” The party plans to challenge the decision in court on Tuesday, hoping the judiciary will restore its election symbol.

Barrister Khan stated that they had not received the certified copy of the ECP’s order but would file their petitions on Tuesday. He maintained that the ECP’s decision was unsustainable, and the judiciary would likely overturn it.

The PTI emphasized that the ECP’s biased and prejudiced verdict would be challenged in the Supreme Court. Election symbols are crucial in Pakistan, where the adult literacy rate is 58 percent, according to World Bank data. The cricket bat symbolizes Imran Khan’s past as a successful cricketer who led Pakistan to their only 50-over World Cup win in 1992.

The ECP’s decision comes just two months before Pakistan’s scheduled general elections. Despite the setback, the PTI expressed confidence in contesting and winning the upcoming elections with its electoral symbol of the bat. The party asserted that attempts to deprive it of its electoral symbol and keep it out of the electoral process would not succeed.

Political parties in Pakistan often face legal proceedings that rights monitors claim are orchestrated by the powerful military. Imran Khan’s PTI has been grappling with a widespread crackdown, with leading figures either jailed or forced to leave the party. Imran Khan, the former premier, has accused Pakistan’s military, the ECP, and political rivals of colluding to keep him and the PTI out of elections. However, these claims have been denied by Pakistan’s military, the ECP, and the caretaker government.