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Pakistan: Imran Khan's party must drop cricket bat symbol

January 13, 2024

The symbol ties in with former Prime Minister Imran Khan's image as a former cricket star. His Tehreek-e-Insaf party believes a court ruling forcing them to lose the cricket bat will cost them during next month's vote.

A PTI election poster in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan
The cricket bat symbol decision by Pakistan's top court has been met with dismay from the PTIImage: Saood Rehman/EPA/picture alliance

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Saturday upheld a ruling stripping former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of its cricket bat symbol. 

Pakistan's Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa announced the ruling on live television, saying the PTI had not held intraparty elections. Political parties in Pakistan must hold these elections in order to take part in the national election.

In December, the Election Commission of Pakistan first announced the ban on PTI for using the symbol for the same reason. The PTI then challenged that decision in the nation's top court. 

PTI on ruling: A 'sad day for democracy'

"This, by far, is the worst decision impacting miillions of voters," PTI said in a statement after the ruling. PTI chairman Gohar Khan said the party's candidates will have to run as independents in the national elections. 

PTI spokesman Zulfi Bukhari decried the ruling as a "sad day for democracy." 

Prime Minister Imran Khan presents former President Donald Trump with a cricket bat
As prime minister, Imran Khan played up his image as a former cricket star at home and abroadImage: Pakistani Prime Ministry Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/picture alliance

There are 241 million people in Pakistan, with many areas facing high illiteracy rates. Without the cricket bat symbol, party officials have said some Pakistanis might not be able to recognize PTI candidates on the ballot.

PTI candidates will now have to choose individual symbols instead of all running under the cricket bat. 

Michael Kugelman, the director of the South Asia Institute at the Washington DC-based Wilson Center think tank, said the Pakistani government is cracking down on PTI ahead of general elections on February 8. 

"PTI leaders jailed. PTI electoral candidates' nomination papers denied. PTI online/rallies fundraisers blocked. Top PTI rival's legal woes melt away. SC justices perceived as siding with PTI step down. PTI denied use of election symbol," Kugelman wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. "This is brazen, not subtle, pre-polls rigging."  

Will the military decide Pakistan's next election?

As of now, Pakistan is under a caretaker government ahead of the February elections. 

PTI leader and former PM Imran Khan is currently behind bars and disqualified from running in next month's vote. Seventy-one-year-old Khan, who served as PM from 2018 to 2022, had a falling out with Pakistan's formidable military and accused a former army chief of trying to kill him. 

Nawaz Sharif, who served as prime minister three times, is seen as the frontrunner in the upcoming vote after returning from exile. Sharif has been cleared of all legal charges against him and is believed to be backed by the Pakistani military. 

wd/sms (AFP, Reuters)