ISLAMABAD: In a bid to regulate mushroom growth and filter out non-serious groups, the electoral watchdog has directed all political parties to provide a list of at least 2,000 members and deposit an enlistment fee of Rs200,000 within 60 days to retain their status.
On Friday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) sent notices to all political parties following the terms of reference laid out in the recently passed Election Act, 2017.
The number of enlisted political parties has reached 352, reflecting a growth of 140% since 2008 general elections.
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Under Sections 201, 202, 209 and 210 of the Election Act, 2017, the list of members should include signatures or thumb impressions along with copies of Computerised National Identity Cards. Also every political party has to deposit Rs200,000 with the State Bank of Pakistan as enlistment fee and provide a receipt of it to the ECP.
Sub-section 4 of Section 202 empowers ECP to cancel enlistment of political parties that fail to comply with these conditions.
Currently, the ECP’s website shows 352 enlisted political parties and a few more applications under process. Among the registered parties, 90% are a ‘one man show’, it is believed.
Since there was no law to de-register a political party before the newly passed act, registration of many political parties, which are virtually defunct or are without a leader, remained valid.
Former president Farooq Khan Leghari’s National Alliance and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) are examples of such groups.
Leghari, who died in October 2010, contested the 2002 elections on the platform of the National Alliance, but later the group merged with what was then the ‘king’s party’, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), created by former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
Under the umbrella of MMA, various politico-religious parties contested the 2002 elections in an alliance that disintegrated before the 2008 elections. However, under the existing laws, the alliance is still a valid registered entity with the ECP.
Earlier, it was easier to register a political party in Pakistan. There was no registration fee and all a party needed was an application, a copy of the party’s manifesto and Constitution along with a list of office-bearers.
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Besides the newly adopted provisions for registration, the law also requires political parties to hold intra-party elections and submit statements of assets regularly. In the previous law, these two provisions had been widely misused by political parties. They used to submit a mere certificate of holding intra-party elections and a cosmetic statement of assets.
However, the new act does not equip the ECP with a mechanism to verify the submitted documents.