In a rather surprising development, former prime minister Imran Khan on Tuesday picked Barrister Gohar Khan as his candidate for the post of chairman in the intra-party polls – a role he has held since the party’s formation over two decades ago.
The announcement came late in the day after much confusion and a sense of conflict creeping into the party’s talks, with unprecedented cracks emerging within its leadership regarding who will be given the reins of the slot.
Imran, who remains embroiled in legal battles while serving time in jail, will bow out and step back from pursuing the chairman’s position due to the challenges, insiders confirmed.
The unexpected move came as political air was already getting thick with speculations that the former prime minister would be elbowed out from the political chessboard – the so-called “minus-Imran” formula allegedly in work after he was clapped in irons.
Earlier in the day, an apparent indecision had resulted in an awkward deep-freeze across the party after lawyers who met PTI chief Imran Khan confirmed his decision to opt out of the chairman race in the intra-party polls – a claim swiftly dismissed by party spokesperson asserting that no conclusion had been reached.
The ambiguity, nonetheless, kept the door cracked in case Imran potentially opted out.
Earlier in the afternoon, a legion of lawyers comprising Senator Ali Zafar, Barrister Gohar, Umair Niazi and Sher Afzal Khan Marwat met the incumbent PTI chairman at Adiala Jail and told the media afterwards that the decision was taken by none other than Imran Khan that he would not be vying for the position of party chairman.
Marwat while talking to the media said that Imran would not be contesting for the party chairman’s slot because of his conviction in the Toshakhana case and subsequent disqualification, saying he can’t do it because of the legal hurdles.
“Khan himself has decided that he would not be contesting elections for the office of chairman PTI,” he said, adding that it was decided with mutual consent that he would be made PTI chairman again once the court matters are settled.
However, within hours, the party spokesperson issued a statement denying the same, saying that no decision has so far been taken to withdraw Imran Khan’s name from the election or to nominate any other leader for the slot.
While denying Marwat’s claim regarding Imran Khan’s non-participation as chairman in the intra-party elections being conducted on the orders of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the spokesperson said that an official statement will be released when the party leadership reaches a conclusion on all important matters, including the holding of intra-party elections, date, procedure and selection of the candidates.
Soon after the party spokesperson’s statement, Marwat not only questioned the official statement but added that whatever he said in his media talk about the intra-party election was a correct statement.“The decisions were taken by Chairman PTI in the presence of Senator Ali Zafar, Barrister Gohar, Umair Niazi and myself,” Marwat posted on X. “I fail to understand who is behind the contradiction and why the misleading statement was issued,” Marwat stated that the media can verify his statement with those present in the meeting.
On Monday, it had emerged that PTI has started preparing for crucial intra-party polls, sidelining its incumbent chairman Imran Khan, who is currently behind bars and entangled in multiple legal battles.
The elections, mandated by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with a deadline of December 13, mark a pivotal moment for the party’s internal dynamics as well as the country’s political scene as it strengthens the notion of minus-Imran, at least for now.
At least two PTI key leaders, who requested anonymity, had confirmed to The Express Tribune about the possible absence of Imran Khan, saying it is highly likely that he will not be contending for the chairman position in the party polls. “It is highly likely that Imran Khan will not be contesting intra-party polls as chairman,” a PTI leader confirmed.
Meanwhile, insiders confirmed on Tuesday that the intra-party polls are slated for Saturday, in which all positions, including that of the chairman, will be contested and elected. They once again confirmed that neither PTI chief Imran Khan nor his sister will take part in the intra-party elections.
On Monday, two party leaders had shared that the two potential candidates for the chairman’s slot could be Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is also in jail, and Hamid Khan. Asked if Pervaiz Elahi could also be made party chairman, they said it was less likely. On Tuesday, they added Barrister Gohar’s name to the candidates for the chairman’s post.
Meanwhile, the ECP adjourned the hearing of the case related to the removal of Imran Khan from the party’s chairmanship till December 5 with directions to PTI’s lawyer to submit a reply by the next date of hearing.
A four-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja conducted the hearing in which petitioner and PTI’s lawyer Barrister Gohar appeared before the bench.
PTI counsel sought time from ECP to submit the reply, saying time is needed to get the record of the case. Subsequently, the ECP bench adjourned the hearing till December 5.
As per information from the PTI leader’s website, Gohar Khan is a practising advocate at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, regularly representing cases in various high courts.
He graduated in law from Wolverhampton University in the UK and pursued an LLM from the Washington School of Law in the USA.
Gohar boasts an active legal career with over 50 reported judgments across diverse areas such as taxation, commercial law, corporate law, arbitration, banking, and election matters.
His expertise spans civil and criminal trials, and he holds the distinction of appearing before esteemed judicial bodies like the Supreme Judicial Council, Field General Court Martial, and its Court of Appeal.
Gohar’s clientele includes both public and private entities, with notable individuals among them, including Imran.
Previously associated with the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian, Gohar contested the National Assembly elections in 2008 under their banner but did not secure a win. He later joined the PTI in July 2022.