Thursday July 25, 2024

Law change likely to kill 300 political parties

By Our special correspondent
December 12, 2017

Islamabad: Only a few political parties from amongst 352 entities registered by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will survive a new law, passed by parliament, to remain qualified to contest any election for having a minimum of 2,000 members each.

According to an assessment, just a few dozens parties of these organisations will stay alive, registered with the ECP, while nearly 300 political organisations are going to become history. But if they still fought any poll, their candidates will have to adopt the status of independent competitors and not as their nominees because they will be deregistered by the ECP for not having even 2,000 members.

The ECP has issued notices to all the 352 political parties that it had registered before the passage of the Elections Act, 2017, asking them to give proof of having 2,000 members each and depositing Rs200,000 as the enlistment fee.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) that had suspended the notice has now upended its previous decision, allowing the ECP to go ahead with the process mandated by the law.

Earlier on November 25, the ECP had issued the final notice to the 352 parties asking them to submit the list of at least 2,000 of their members and deposit the enlistment fee of Rs200,000 each by December 2 or be ready to be de-listed. A predominant majority of the registered political organisations are mere paper parties, having no members, offices or organisational structure, whatsoever. They are limited to their heads and their number two. They have never contested any election, and if some of them ever jumped in any electoral fight, their candidates were never more than a couple who too performed poorly.

The new election law aims at weeding out paper parties and checking their mushroom growth, which proliferated with the passage of time. It will be an uphill task for these bodies to manage even 2,000 members to legitimise their existence before the ECP.

Under Section 202 of the Elections Act, copies of the National Identity Cards of 2,000 members with their signatures or thumb impressions will have to be submitted to the ECP in response to the instant notice. The application for enlistment will be accompanied by copies of the party constitution and consolidated statement of accounts apart from the proof of deposit of Rs200,000 in the government treasury as enlistment fee.

However, a political party registered by the ECP before the commencement of the new law will be deemed to have been registered under it provided it has filed with the ECP the required documents, and if not, it will submit these papers within 60 days from the commencement of the law. If an enlisted political party fails to submit these documents within the time stipulated, the ECP will cancel its enlistment after affording an opportunity of being heard.

A political party, which has been refused enlistment or whose registration has been rescinded within 30 days, may file an appeal before the Supreme Court. A political party formed after the commencement of the Elections Act will, within 30 days of its formation, apply to the ECP for its registration.

The miniature registered political parties, which exist only in name, are not known to have held their periodical elections. Under Section 209, a political party will, within seven days of completion of its intra-party elections, filed a certificate signed by an office-bearer authorised by its head, to the ECP to the effect that the elections were held in accordance with its constitution and the law to elect the office-bearers at the federal, provincial and local levels.

This certificate will contain the date of the intra-party elections; the names, designations and addresses of office-bearers elected at the federal, provincial and local levels; the election results; and copy of the party‘s notifications declaring such results.

As per Section 201, a political party will formulate its constitution, which will include its aims and objectives; organisational structure at the federal, provincial and local levels; membership fee to be paid by the members; designation and tenure of the office-bearers; criteria for receipt and collection of funds for the party; and procedure for election of office-bearers; their powers and functions, including financial decision-making; selection or nomination of party candidates for election to public offices and legislative bodies; resolution of disputes between members and political party, including issues relating to suspension and expulsion of members; and method and manner of amendments in its constitution.

Every political party will provide a printed copy of its constitution to the ECP and any change in it will be communicated to the ECP within 15 days of its incorporation and the ECP will maintain updated record of the constitutions of all the parties.

The law also requires that a political party will submit to the ECP within 60 days from the close of a financial year a consolidated statement of its accounts, audited by a Chartered Accountant, containing annual income and expenses; sources of its funds; and assets and liabilities. This statement will be accompanied by the report of a Chartered Accountant with regard to the audit of accounts and a certificate signed by an office-bearer authorised by the party head stating that no funds from any source prohibited were received; and the statement contains an accurate financial position of the party.