Former Prime Minister Imran Khan asserted on Wednesday that the Punjab government’s imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was aimed at obstructing the upcoming show of power by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) candidates. He made these remarks after attending proceedings related to a £190 million Toshakhana and cipher cases.

The indictment of Mr. Khan in the £190 million reference was deferred by Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir due to the absence of the defense counsel. Meanwhile, Judge of Special Court (Official Secrets Act) Abual Hasnat Mohammad Zulqarnain concluded the cross-examination of four prosecution witnesses in the cipher case.

Mr. Khan, addressing the media, claimed that the caretaker government, certain individuals in the establishment, and the Election Commission of Pakistan were united against his party. He alleged pre-poll rigging and expressed confidence in PTI’s substantial vote bank within the armed forces.

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In response to questions about potential deals with stakeholders, Mr. Khan emphasized his interest only in free and transparent elections. He criticized the prevailing mindset in the corridors of power, stating that the election is for “real freedom.”

The former prime minister applied to cast his vote through the postal ballot and raised concerns that Section 144 was imposed to prevent PTI candidates from holding large-scale public meetings. He accused PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif of being behind the imposition, linking it to his alleged failure to draw crowds in public meetings.

Mr. Khan disclosed a contingency plan in case any PTI candidate is arrested or barred from contesting elections, ensuring a replacement would step in.

In a related development, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) reserved its decision on two petitions filed by Imran Khan against his trial at Adiala Jail in Toshakhana and the £190 million corruption cases. The court heard arguments about the alleged violation of relevant laws in issuing the notification for the jail trial.

Separately, the Election Commission of Pakistan agreed to postpone contempt proceedings against Imran Khan and the chief election commissioner until after the Feb 8 general elections. The decision came during a hearing where the PTI founder’s lawyer argued for an adjournment, claiming that the ECP’s actions suggested bias. The ECP countered, asserting its neutrality.

The hearing was adjourned until Feb 20, and a similar request for adjournment was granted for the contempt case against former PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry, with a deadline for submitting a reply set for Feb 21.

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