The political party of Pakistan’s imprisoned former prime minister, Imran Khan, suffered a significant setback on Saturday at the country’s highest court in its attempt to keep its cricket bat election symbol for the upcoming polls.

The country is set to hold a general election on February 8, which has been criticized by rights groups for lacking credibility due to a crackdown against Khan’s party.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has traditionally used the cricket bat as its symbol, making it easier for voters to identify on the ballot in a nation where the adult literacy rate stands at just 58 percent according to World Bank data.

Political analysts have emphasized that in a country with a high illiteracy rate, many voters will face challenges in identifying their preferred choice without the familiar bat symbol. They also warned of a systematic effort by the political establishment to sideline the PTI.

In December, the Election Commission took the decision to prohibit the PTI from using their emblem. This decision came after the commission determined that the party’s internal polls did not comply with election regulations, leading to several legal challenges that eventually reached the Supreme Court this week.

Pakistan’s Chief Justice, Qazi Faez Isa, upheld this ban in a televised ruling. He explained that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had initially called on the PTI to conduct elections back in 2021 when the party was in power, making it inappropriate to claim that the ECP was unfairly targeting the PTI.