By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) - The election commission on Thursday issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for opposition party leader and former cricket star Imran Khan in a contempt of court case -- a move that was swiftly rejected by his party.
Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retired) Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan ordered the police to arrest the Pakistan Tahreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman and bring him before the bench on Oct. 26.
The move comes after Khan repeatedly failed to appear before the five-member bench of the electoral commission.
Earlier on Sept. 14, the bench had issued bailable arrest warrants for Khan after his repeated failure to appear in contempt of court proceedings at the commission but the Islamabad High Court later suspended the warrants after PTI’s petition.
This is the first time the commission has issued non-bailable warrant for him.
The electoral body is hearing a case on alleged illegal foreign funding against Khan that had been filed against him by a party dissident Akbar S. Babar in November 2014.
The petitioner alleged that Khan received nearly $3 million in foreign funds that were collected through two offshore companies.
The money was later sent to Pakistan through supposedly illegal channels, which the popular politician then allegedly concealed in his annual audit reports submitted to the commission.
The PTI rejected the electoral body’s order to arrest their party chief, terming the move "illegal".
"We have decided to challenge the ECP order today because it is illegal and the commission has no jurisdiction to issue any arrest warrants for a political leader," Khan’s spokesman Naeemul Haq told Anadolu Agency.
Khan is also facing a case against him in the Supreme Court where the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s petition is seeking his disqualification.
The petition accuses the PTI leader of not declaring his assets to Election Commission of Pakistan.
Khan and ex-premier Nawaz Sharif have been at loggerhead for years, especially after the Panama Papers scandal in April last year.
The scandal led to Sharif's disqualification and opening of multiple corruption cases against him in July this year.