Imran Khan with Gohar Khan during a meeting at his Banigala residence in Islamabad. File
Jailed former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan's party said on Wednesday that he had named one of his lawyers as his temporary stand-in to contest the position of party head.
Imran's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party released a video showing barrister Gohar Khan announcing his nomination. "I will fill in for Imran Khan," the nominee said, adding that Imran Khan was and will always remain party chief.
The party needs a new chairman to hold elections scheduled for Saturday to elect a new party chairman and other office bearers as former national cricketing hero Khan, being a convict, is barred from taking part.
Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, another of Imran Khan's lawyers, said that the replacement was just a babysitting arrangement.
Zafar announced on Wednesday that Chairman Imran Khan would not be contesting intra-party election, which has been scheduled for Dec.2 and Barrister Gohar Khan, another attorney of the party chief has been nominated for the slot of its chairman.
This came out to be a major development and quelled speculation that Imran would retain the party position despite being disqualified by a court of law to hold it.
Zafar’s statement comes a day after the party found itself embroiled in fresh controversy after denying a statement by one of its own senior leaders, who had claimed that Imran Khan would not contest the upcoming intra-party polls for the slot of party chairman and that he had picked someone to contest in his stead.
Speaking to the media outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Zafar said that the PTI chief had been convicted in the Toshakhana case.
Stressing that a person could not be disqualified for failing to declare Toshakhana gifts, Zafar said that the PTI then had to see if the ECP would take any "illegal or unconstitutional” step that would prevent the party from getting the bat as its poll symbol or cancel the nominations of its candidates.
He noted that while Imran Khan’s Toshakhana sentence has been suspended a final decision has not yet been made. He said that all these matters were discussed with Imran Khan in the presence of other lawyers. He quoted Imran as saying that he did not want to give the ECP any "excuse” for not giving the party the bat symbol in the upcoming general elections, rejecting the nomination of candidates or for not participating in the election.
"The public is with us. We will win the elections when they happen. I want to take part in the general election. Intra-party polls hold no meaning for me. I want the Toshkahana case to be decided as soon as possible. When it is decided, I will contest intra-party polls as chairman,” Zafar quoted Imran Khan as saying.
He said that the ex-premier had directed the party to hold intra-party polls, adding that the decision was placed before the senior leadership, which had approved it. He said that Imran would not contest intra-party polls until the Toshakhana case was decided.
Zafar said that the question then arose about the candidates for the intra-party polls as well as the nominated "caretaker chairman.” He said that the names of several prominent personalities were discussed, however, all of them had been appointed to permanent positions within the party.
"It would not be appropriate to give them a temporary position. That is why we need someone who is not controversial and can play a role in this caretaker mode, this temporary arrangement,” he said.
Announcing Gohar Khan as the nominee for chairman, Zafar said that the lawyer was an appropriate pick for a "temporary arrangement.” "With his nomination, you will realise that this is not a minus-one formula, that this is not a coup. He is Imran Khan's own nominee and is appropriate for the temporary arrangement we are doing. The PTI is Imran Khan and Imran Khan is PTI. PTI is nothing without Khan. It doesn’t matter if you’re the chairman on paper. The leader, and the continuous leader, is Imran Khan.”
Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq on Monday ruled that Imran Khan be shifted to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail from the Attock district jail, where he is currently incarcerated in the cipher case.
Imran Khan, winner of the last election in 2018, remains in jail after being convicted in a graft case in August despite his three-year sentence being suspended by a court.
The court instructed the superintendent of Adiala jail to facilitate the contact through WhatsApp. During the hearing, special court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain heard the petition seeking directives to jail officials to allow the PTI chief to contact his sons.
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