In a major blow to Imran Khan, Pakistan’s election commission on Tuesday rejected a case filed by the cricketer-turned-politician against a woman lawmaker seeking to disqualify her for violating party discipline. In his complaint to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Khan, the Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party had claimed that Ayesha Gulalai, a member of the National Assembly had violated party laws and should be disqualified as a lawmaker. The ECP in its short order, announced the decision in favour of Gulalai by a 3-2 majority of the five-member bench headed by the Chief Election Commissioner hearing Imran’s plea.
Imran had said that Gulalai had abstained from voting for the PTI’s chosen candidate, Sheikh Rasheed, for the office of prime minister after the ouster of Nawaz Sharif on July 28. Khan had notified all party members to support Rashid, the Awami Muslim League chief. Gulalai, however, claimed that she had not participated in the vote due to an illness, but the PTI’s lawyer presented a record of television talk shows on which she had appeared at the time of the session to speak about her decision to leave the party. Gulalai, a lawmaker from South Waziristan, had parted ways with the PTI in August after levelling allegations of sexual harassment against its 65-year-old flamboyant chairman.
She had also cited “ill-treatment” of women in the party as the reason behind her decision. As a result of the ECP ruling, Gulalai will continue to be a member of the National Assembly. She was elected on a reserved seat for women from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in 2013. Speaking to the media outside the ECP, Gulalai said that by appearing before the ECP she had showed her respect for state’s institutions.
“I had said on the first day that I will accept the ECP’s decision,” she said as she thanked the judges for deciding in her favour. Reacting to the ECP’s ruling, the PTI said it was not happy. “She has made allegations against the PTI chief,” party leader Fawad Chaudhry said, maintaining that Gulalai had disassociated herself from the party. “How can she be a member of the NA on PTI’s ticket?” “The party should be able to trust her. PTI is not happy with the ECP’s decision,” Chaudhry said. “Her occupation of this seat violates the rights of those women in the party who are involved in a political struggle,” he added.