Court: IHC directs ECP to allot JUI-F ‘closed book’ electoral symbol

ISLAMABAD: A Division Bench of Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the Election Commissions of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday to allot “closed boo” as electoral symbol to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam- Fazal (JUI-F). The bench comprised Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui. Earlier, the ECP had allotted the JUI-F an open book as electoral symbol. The JUI-F had moved the IHC against the ECP’s decision seeking ‘closed book’ as its electoral symbol.

On March 11, the same bench had suspended the ECP’s decision in which it had confirmed allotment of open book as election symbol to the JUI-F. On March 1, a five member tribunal of ECP comprising Justice (r) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Justice (r) Muhammad Roshan Essani, Justice (r) Riaz Kayani, Justice (re) Shahzad Akbar Khan and Justice (r Fazalur Rehman had rejected the JUI-F plea that open book would mislead the voters.

According to the court record, the JUI-F symbol was changed on December 9, 2011 and the ECP gave open book as symbol with Urdu alphabets and some numerical (2+2=4) printed on its pages. According to the ECP the change in symbol “was aimed at avoiding possible misuse of closed book as candidates may describe it Holy Quran during electioneering to exploit religious sentiments of the voters.”

The ECP decision had come in the wake of information provided to it by its deputy director Nazar Abbas in November 2011. He in his presentation had stated that there were instances when closed book was referred to as ‘Holy Quran’ and candidates tried to stir the religious emotions of the voters.

The ECP in its decision on March 1 stated to differentiate it from Holy Quran, open book had been allotted to the party. Challenging the ECP decision, JUI-F counsel Kamran Murtaza had contended that the change in the symbol would adversely affect the election results because the JUI-F voters were familiar with the closed book.