A majority of people may regard it as a single political entity but the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) recent report says former president Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari head two different political parties with separately located headquarters.
An updated list of political parties compiled by the ECP shows that Zardari is president of the Pakistan Peoples Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP), the parliamentary faction of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), whose patron in chief is Bilawal Bhutto.
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The PPPP’s head office is located in Islamabad’s G-6/4 sector while Zardari House in F-8 sector is the headquarters of Bilawal-led PPP, according to the documents submitted to the ECP. Interestingly, they have been leading their groups without any intra-party polls.
Zardari, who continues to call the shots in the PPP following the assassination of his spouse and former PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto, has another edge over his son. Being head of the faction that represents the PPP in parliament, he can get any elected PPP member disqualified in case of a breach of discipline.
This power was given to the party head during the PPP’s last term in centre through an amendment in Political Parties Order 2002. The amendment allowed a party head, even if he himself is not an elected member of parliament, to kick out any member of his party in case of violation of party discipline. This power rested earlier with the parliamentary leader of the party in the respective house.
The Political Parties’ Order 2002, promulgated during military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s regime, had made it binding on the political parties to hold intra-party polls and provide a list of their respective elected office-bearers. The ordinance, which later became an act of parliament, made it compulsory for the political parties to submit details of their assets to the ECP.
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Under the law, only those parties are allowed to contest elections, which hold intra-party polls regularly and provide details of their party’s assets every year. Since its enactment, the law has been flouted by almost all the mainstream political parties, thanks to the toothless election commission of the country.
In 2002 when the law was introduced, the PPP’s lifetime chairperson Benazir Bhutto was in self-exile and Makhdoom Amin Fahim was appointed as PPPP’s president so that the party could be eligible to contest polls.
Since the incumbent prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was also in exile, the election authorities registered the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) with Raja Zafarul Haq as its chairman.
In July 2011, the PML-N held its intra-party polls where all the office bearers were elected unopposed. Nawaz was elected the PML-N president after the party’s former acting president, Javed Hashmi, proposed Nawaz’s name and the party chairman, Raja Zafarul Haq, seconded the nomination.
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Apart for a few parties, there is hardly any precedent of genuine intra-party polls in any mainstream party. They provide a list of ‘elected’ office bearers to the ECP which accepts it without verification.
Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tried to introduce the idea of intra-party polls. Before the last general elections, in November 2012, the PTI held intra-party polls in which Imran was elected as the chairman of the party unopposed. No one filed nominations to contest against him.
The PTI earlier this year announced that its intra-party polls will complete before its 20th anniversary on April 24. However, Imran postponed the polls indefinitely on April 11 on the pretext of launching an anti-government protest campaign following Panama Papers leaks.
Among the 327 political parties registered with the ECP is also the PPP-Patriots, a breakaway faction of the PPP that had joined hands with the PML-Q after 2002 elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2016.
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