Imran Khan’s political party has lost the electoral symbol of the cricket bat

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has dismissed an attempt by the political party led by former Prime Minister Imran Khan to retain its traditional electoral symbol, a cricket bat, marking another setback for the incarcerated leader ahead of the upcoming general election on 8th February.

Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has been in conflict with influential army generals and is contending with a military-backed crackdown intensifying in the lead-up to the elections. The PTI alleges that the military is attempting to sideline them in the electoral race, a claim vehemently denied by the army.

The significance of a party’s electoral symbol on ballot papers is crucial for voters, particularly in a country where the majority of constituencies are in rural areas with low literacy rates.

Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa announced the ruling in a live late-night telecast on the top court’s website. With the cricket bat symbol revoked, PTI candidates now face the challenge of contesting the election using individual symbols, potentially causing confusion among voters.

In response to the decision, the PTI expressed dissatisfaction, stating, “This, by far, is the worst decision impacting millions of voters.” Barrister Gohar Khan, the party’s chair, declared that its candidates would now stand as independents.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had removed the PTI’s symbol on technical grounds, citing the party’s failure to conduct internal elections, a prerequisite for any political party to participate in the national vote. The PTI contested this decision in the Supreme Court.

The election campaign, delayed since November, has been lackluster in an uncertain political environment, with the 71-year-old Imran Khan jailed and disqualified from contesting. Meanwhile, his main rival, former three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has been cleared of all court cases and a lifetime ban, making him eligible to participate in the polls. Analysts suggest that Sharif is the frontrunner, attributing his advantage to perceived military support, a decisive factor in a country where army generals wield considerable influence over governments. The army maintains that it remains apolitical.

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