The dilemma of two PPPs

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as its chairman does not exist in the eyes of law as it is not registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and cannot contest the forthcoming parliamentary polls.

Therefore, the PPP cannot legally apply for and get its favourite election symbol of sword, an official told the News.

Once again, it is set to fight the forthcoming general elections under the banner of the PPP-Parliamentarians (PPP-P), led by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, as it did in 2002 for the first time and then in 2008.

It registered with the ECP as PPP-P prior to the 2002 polls because the PPP being headed by Benazir Bhutto was ineligible to qualify for registration due to its chairperson’s absence from Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf had made it mandatory that the chief of a party, seeking registration with the ECP to qualify for contesting elections, should be present in Pakistan.

The ECP recently issued a reminder to political parties asking them to submit statements of their accounts and certificates about their internal elections to become entitled to allotment of polls symbols before the next electoral race.

The PPP-P is not known to have held intra-party elections. Since day one, Makhdoom Amin Faheem (Commerce Minister) is its president and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (Prime Minister) its secretary general.

Like the PPP-P, the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) too have not held their internal elections.

“It is obligatory for every party, desirous of contesting elections, to register itself with the ECP under the Political Parties Order 2002,” former ECP Secretary Kanwar Dilshad told The News.

“When I was ECP secretary, President Asif Ali Zardari and Farooq H Naek had expressed their keen desire to register the PPP, but I told them it can’t be done till Zardari is the president of Pakistan because a person in the service of Pakistan can’t be its co-chairman,” he said. “Then, they dropped the idea of registering the PPP with the ECP.”

Dilshad said he further explained to them that the PPP can’t also be registered because its chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was under age and was not qualified under the Constitution to fight election to the National Assembly.

He said heads of all parties would have to be eligible to contest national or provincial elections otherwise the ECP would not register their political entities.

After having taken the decision to contest the upcoming polls under the PPP-P (and not PPP) flag, Bilawal continues to be chairman of the PPP, and Amin Faheem remains president of the PPP-P, though totally ineffective, toothless and powerless.

With Bilawal being the chairman and Zardari the co-chairman of the PPP, Senator Jehangir Badr is its secretary general. Although the ruling party will go in the elections under the PPP-P banner, its leaders have never mentioned this party in their campaign and keep on harping on PPP’s name.

The PPP held its last intra-party elections in 2006. The PML-Q carried out the similar exercise in 2009, the Muthidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamaat-e-Islami in 2012 and PML-Nawaz last year while Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is currently going through this process and wants to complete it before the parliamentary polls.

Article 14 of the Political Parties Order-2002 says a party shall be eligible to obtain an election symbol to contest the elections on submission of certificates and statements.

Where any party or a combination of parties, collectively, contravenes the provisions of the Order, it shall not be entitled to the election symbol.

The ECP has made it clear that Allocation of Symbols Order-2002 provides that subject to the fulfillment of the provisions of the Political Parties Order and the rules framed under it, a political party shall make an application to the ECP for allocation of a symbol of its choice within the specified period.