Can Pakistan head for civil war after Election Commission bars Imran Khan from contesting polls for five years?

New Delhi, Oct 22: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan suffered a big jolt on Friday after the country’s election commission disqualified him from contesting polls for the next five years.

The ruling by the Election Commission of Pakistan has triggered street violence in major Pakistani cities including Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar where activists of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) that Khan leads took to the streets, opening possibilities of large-scale violence that would challenge the pro-US government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of the PML (N), but decisively backed by the Pakistan’s Army Chief Javed Qamar Bajwa.

The ECP’s disqualification came after Khan was found guilty of not sharing details of Toshakhana gifts received from foreign countries, and proceeds resulting from their sale during his tenure as prime minister. The combative Khan was forced to relinquish office in April, following a successful non-confidence motion that had been mounted against him by the opposition in Parliament, leading to the emergence of the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition. The ruling combine includes the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), with Sindh as its base.

A five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, unanimously ruled against Khan under Article 63 (p) of the Constitution. The ruling ousted Khan as a member of the National Assembly or Pakistan’s parliament.

In the decision announced by the ECP, it has been said that Khan is no longer a member of the National Assembly and that his response was “not correct”.

According to the verdict, Khan has been involved in corrupt practices and his seat in the National Assembly has been declared vacant. The verdict has called for the initiation of legal action against Khan.

Khan’s lawyer Gohar Khan said that the ECP has ruled that Khan was disqualified from running for political office for five years, as he had misled officials about gifts he received while in power, AFP reported.

Pakistan’s Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar said after the ECP ruling, the stage was set for criminal proceedings against Khan.

“The ECP has now referred his case for criminal proceedings against him (Khan) in an appropriate court of law,” he added.

He also slammed PTI “mobs of attacking cities,” the Pakistani daily Dawn reported.

Addressing Imran Khan, the PML (N) Senator said: “Your personal theft has been caught and now you should face the law. Leading mobs, marching on cities and firing do not suit a national leader.”

Tarar was apparently referring to reports of violent protests that were reported from Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. DawnNewsTV showed footage of burning tyres in Peshawar. In Islamabad, police could be seen battling protesters.

PTI workers also blocked Murree Road with burning tyres, Dawn reported.

The daily said that in Rawalpindi, PTI workers demonstrated at Bakra Mandi Chowk, raising slogans against the ECP’s ruling.

Some legal experts said that the verdict has been overblown as the ECP is not a court of law.

“It is nonetheless a silly verdict – it would have been rendered meaningless under Article 62(1)(f), as the ECP isn’t a court of law,” Barrister Asad Rahim Khan told Dawn.(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

–indianarrative

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