With the general elections just around the corner, a close aide of Benazir Bhutto has moved the election authorities to register a new party with the name Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Naheed Khan, a close associate of the assassinated former two-time prime minister, also submitted a list of office bearers of her proposed party along with the application and asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to allocate the symbol of an arrow or a sword to her faction of the PPP in the upcoming polls.
Once a key figure in the Benazir-led PPP government, Khan is now amongst the growing disgruntled members after President Asif Ali Zardari took charge of the party following Bhutto’s assassination.
The ruling party is registered with the name of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P) with Makhdoom Amin Fahim as its president and has been taking part in the elections with this registered name.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the co-chairman of the PPP as per the purported will of the assassinated party chairperson since her death in 2007. However, under legal status this party is registered as the PPP-P and not PPP.
To fulfil the criteria to qualify for contesting the polls, the PPP recently held intra-party elections as a formality and re-elected Amin Fahim and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf as the party president and secretary general, respectively.
Last week Safdar Abbasi, Khan’s spouse, filed a petition challenging the authenticity of these intra-party polls of the PPP.
Khan in her application also submitted to the ECP a list of office-bearers of the party with herself named as the president, Fiaz Khan as the secretary general and Ibne Rizvi as the finance secretary. She also applied for election symbols which the original PPP has been using in its campaigns in the past.
Although no prominent personality has surfaced in the list of office-bearers in the Khan-led faction of PPP yet, some political observers do take the move seriously.
Rules to register a party with the ECP are very lenient and it is likely that the commission will register this faction as the PPP. There are over 225 political parties registered with the ECP as of now. In case Khan succeeds in getting support of other disgruntled members of the ruling PPP, the faction might dent the PPP vote bank.
Different disgruntled elements had been parting ways with the PPP and forming their own factions in the past as well. Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, a former chief minister of NWFP, now K-P, had made his own faction called the PPP-Sharpo and contested elections with the same name during the last two elections. He has now changed the name of his party to Qami Wattan Party.
Similarly Benazir Bhutto’s own brother Murtaza Bhutto had made PPP-Shaheed Bhutto. After his murder during the second tenure of Benazir’s government, his widow took over the faction which could hardly make any gains among the PPP loyalists.
Once a close associate of Benazir Bhutto, former president Farooq Khan Leghari had also made his own party after he sacked her government in 1996.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2013.