Incarcerated PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday wrote a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Esa, requesting the top judge to protect the party’s fundamental rights.
The PTI has alleged that it is being stopped from carrying out political activities in the run up to the general election and several of its leaders are incarcerated following violence in the country on May 9.
Earlier this month, President Arif Alvi had also written a letter to interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and raised the PTI’s concerns regarding the “erosion of fundamental rights and a level playing field for all political parties”.
Imran urged the apex court to safeguard his party’s “right to liberty, to associate, assemble and speak” as guaranteed under the Constitution.
“This denial of fundamental rights does not assume the colour of lawful due process only because the power to arrest and prosecute available to the state is the chosen weapon of assault,” read the letter.
Imran highlighted that the power to prosecute and arrest was being used in a blatant attempt to “engineer and skew the political landscape of the country”.
He said anyone who was associated with PTI was being targeted through multiple criminal cases to keep them imprisoned, adding that new cases were lodged against party leaders after they received bail.
“Often several first information reports (FIRs) are registered against persons affiliated with the PTI in respect to the same event,” the letter read. “The same persons are also implicated in successive FIRs […] across the country.”
Decrying that “a fresh wave of state oppression” was unleashed against PTI, Imran said undisclosed FIRs and police reports were kept “in reserve” to re-arrest any bailed-out person affiliated with PTI.
“This is a situation that demands judicial notice […],” the letter read. “It would however be abdication of judicial responsibility to deny the facts and to assume that we are living through normal times.”
Imran said judges could not turn a blind eye to the reality “even though justice may be blind”. He added that the Supreme Court could not be unaware of the disappearances of people affiliated with the PTI or its 2018 government.
“These persons have re-appeared and made press conferences that are clearly tutored,” he said.
He also said there was “no possibility” of fair and free general elections on Feb 8 if the Supreme Court did not intervene to halt the widespread arrests and abductions of party leaders and workers.
“The fact the political landscape is being set up through coercion […] to favour one set of political actors that have the blessings of the powers that be against the PTI […] is breeding disgust in a large number of Pakistanis, not restricted to the supporters of PTI,” he said.
Imran also said that print and electronic media were being coerced to generate “tutored content and opinions”.
“The targets and the beneficiaries of this coercion have changed from time to time but the ability of the powers to be coerce and overwhelm the constitutional process has remained a menacing constant,” he said.
“In view of the foregoing, it is respectfully prayed that the apex court of the country may kindly exercise the power available to it to ensure the enforcement of fundamental rights and to grant to the people of Pakistan justice” by issuing certain orders, he said.
He called for the SC to issue orders for halting the “practice of successive arrests of persons granted bail in known cases” and to set up a commission to probe the disappearances of journalists and political workers.
Imran also urged the top judge to direct the federal government, the provincial governments, and Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure the PTI was allowed to carry out political meetings and gatherings without any discrimination.
He also asked to ensure the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority allowed coverage for PTI leaders without any discrimination.