With the addition of 15 new entities on Tuesday, the number of registered political parties in Pakistan has risen to a whopping 182.
The Election Commission of Pakistan, during its meeting on Tuesday, cleared the applications of 15 applicants under the Political Parties Order 2002.
Among new entrants are five parties with the words “Pakistan Muslim League”: Pakistan Muslim League (Muttahida), Peoples Muslim League Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League (Democratic), Pakistan Muslim League (Council) and Pakistan Muslim League (Safdar). The other parties are: Wattan National League Pakistan, Awami Ittehad Party, Muttahida Qaabail Party, All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, Sada-e-Pakistan Party, Tehreek-i-Ittehad-e-Adam, All Pakistan Youth Working Party, Khud-Mukhtar Pakistan Party and Pakistan United Inqalab Party.
Not more than a dozen among the registered parties have any representation at any level in the national or provincial legislatures.
Requirements to register a party
Under the Political Parties Order 2002, registering a new political party is very easy. One needs to provide a printed copy of the party’s ‘constitution’, a statement of an account in the name of the party from any bank and a list of names of some office-bearers of this party to the ECP. There is neither a fee nor any process of verification of these documents available with the ECP till now.
Under the election laws, it is mandatory for every party to hold intra-party elections before it is allocated an election symbol – but this provision is flouted. Forget the obscure parties, even most of the bigger and established political parties do not go through any proper intra-party elections. Usually they submit a certificate claiming that this process has been adhered to.
Except very few aberrations, an overwhelming majority of the political parties have lifelong heads.
Why a lucrative business
For most ‘parties,’ existence is either a part-time hobby or a sort of a bargaining chip. For example, an official of the ECP told The Express Tribune that former president Pervez Musharraf has registered his party with the name of All Pakistan Muslim League and is striving to get eagle as his party’s election symbol. However, eagle is already allotted to another party – and it is likely that if Musharraf wants to enter the political arena with this symbol, he might have to bargain with the head of the party already that has already been allotted this symbol.
In its meeting on Tuesday, the commission also allotted election symbols to 11 other parties. Pakistan Fatima Jinnah Muslim League was allotted a stag; Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (Noorani), fan; Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek, gun, Awami Justice Party, tumbler; Mutahidda Muslim League, bus; Sindh Dost Party, house; Ittehad Alam-e-Islam, flower pot; Awami Tehreek, whistle; Bahawalpur National Awami Party, bull cart; Sindh Taraqi Passand Party, television; and Jannat Pakistan Party, fountain.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2012.