On December 2, 2023, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan and his nominated figure, Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, as the new chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaaf party days before the Election Commission of Pakistan deadline for the party to hold organisational polls to retain bat as its election symbol. This is the first time since the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf was founded in 1996 by the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
Nomination of Gohar Ali Khan
Gohar, aged 45 years old, was handpicked by Khan after consultation with his loyalist lawyers who frequently met him in jail, where he was kept since being arrested on August 5, 2023, after conviction in the Toshakhana case. Khan avoided the elections due to conviction and disqualification.
Gohar’s election, even when unopposed, did not happen with friction and indicated that he would have to deal with old party leaders who were overlooked for the key post. Akbar S. Babar, one of the founding members of the PTI, had rejected his candidature, calling it a selection instead of an election. He said that the nomination of Gohar had raised serious questions about the transparency and credibility of the entire PTI intra-party elections.
Political Observers considered the move to launch Gohar, a relatively unfamiliar face in the political arena, as the most astonishing, especially when the party needed a strong and experienced candidate and hand to steer through the rough waters in the absence of Khan.
However, the fact that he is just a stop-gap arrangement and was appointed as the chairman to avoid legal complications would remain his major vulnerability. It means that for every decision, he would look up to Khan for approval.
Soft-spoken Gohar, who is a lawyer by profession and someone who has been appearing in several cases against Imran Khan and the PTI, was elected unopposed as nobody filed the nomination against him in the intra-party elections held in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Criticism of the ECP
Speaking with journalists in Peshawar after his election, Gohar said he would try to fulfil his responsibilities as Khan’s representative, “When elections take place, we will defeat everyone,” Gohar said. He also criticized the ECP by saying that at least 175 political parties in Pakistan have been providing details to the ECP for intra-party polls, but none of them were as scrutinised as the PTI.
About Gohar Ali Khan
According to his website, Gohar Khan is an advocate of the Supreme Court and appears in all high courts. He is a graduate of Wolverhampton University, UK and has an LLM (master’s degree) from Washington School of Law, USA. He followed the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and contested the elections from its platform in 2008, in which he lost. After the setback, he moved away from politics and focused on law. He was associated with the chamber of Aitizaz Ahsan, who is a top lawyer and leader of the PPP.
An ethnic Pashtun (Pathan), the new PTI Chief hails from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and his nomination is being looked at as an effort to keep the Pashtun support base of the party intact. The reason why the third-party elections were held in Peshawar instead of the usual Lahore or Islamabad as chosen venues for such activities is self-explanatory.