Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan has been in jail since September 26 in various cases (File)
Pakistan's election commission has said that former prime minister Imran Khan is not a "prisoner of conscience" and he is jailed because he is an accused in various cases, including for the misuse of a diplomatic cable.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) made the statement in response to Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party's remarks in its 24-point Charter of Demand ahead of general elections in the country on February 8.
The PTI in the charter sent to the ECP on November 6 by its Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan described 71-year-old Khan, also Chairman of the party, as a "prisoner of conscience." It also said the party was being victimised and persecuted as a political entity.
The ECP, however, dismissed the charge and said that "it has no role" in this alleged victimisation, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.
The ECP in its response to the charter on November 22 said: "Former PM and Chairman Imran Khan is in jail in different cases including [the] cipher case." The term "prisoner of conscience" refers to a person who has been put in prison for holding political or religious views that are not tolerated in the State he/she lives in.
The cricketer-turned-politician has been incarcerated in the high-security Adiala jail in Rawalpindi since September 26 in various cases.
The ECP reiterated the "no-role" statement in response to PTI's claim that its leaders were coerced into giving interviews and statements against the party and parting ways with it.
The polls oversight authority clarified that it could not refrain any political leader from joining or leaving any party.
On the PTI's claim that it was not getting a level-playing field, the ECP said it had already issued directions to all caretaker governments for providing a level-playing field to all.
When the PTI pointed out that the general elections were not taking place within the constitutionally stipulated period of 90 days, the ECP said the issue had been deliberated by the Supreme Court.
The ECP said it had set February 8, 2024, as the election date in consultation with the president on the order of the court.
When the PTI alleged that the caretaker governments were actively involved in pre-poll rigging against the PTI, the ECP simply reiterated that it had already issued directions to the caretaker governments and "the PTI should come up with specific and concrete proposals/evidence" in support of its claims.
The PTI had urged the ECP to issue instructions to the relevant authorities to allow the party to conduct political meetings.
The ECP in its response said: "All political parties will be provided a level-playing field during the forthcoming elections." Without naming Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, the PTI had raised objection to a convicted and absconder prisoner being given unprecedented protocol and permission to hold public meetings.
The ECP reiterated that the issue will be taken up.
To the PTI's request that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) should be instructed to give as much airtime to Khan and his party as the PML-N and other parties are enjoying, the ECP said the matter will be taken up with the caretaker federal government.
On the election schedule, the ECP wrote that it would be announced after the publication of the final list of the constituencies.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)