ISLAMABAD: PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zar­dari may take charge of the office of president of the PPP-Parliamentarians, sources told Dawn.

The office has fallen vacant after the death of Makhdoom Amin Fahim.

According to sources in the party, the option of Mr Zardari assuming the office of president of the PPP-P, the party’s version which is registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan as a full-fledged political party and having representation in parliament and provincial legislatures, had been under consideration even before the death of Mr Fahim.

“We had discussed this option a few months ago when Amin Fahim saheb was abroad for his treatment,” said a senior party office-bearer who is close to Mr Zardari.

Another PPP leader said that soon after completion of the tenure of the country’s president by Mr Zardari in 2013, the issue had come under discussion when the leadership was weighing the option of merging the two versions of the party into one to end the confusion.

At one stage, the sources said, it was decided that Mr Zardari would become the president of the PPP-P and then he would announce that this version of the party would not take part in the elections in future. However, the plan could not be implemented because of some technical and legal reasons after some party dissidents moved the ECP and courts to get the name with three ‘Ps’ registered in their name.

Read: PPP-P gets ‘arrow’ amid protest by dissidents

The sources said all lawmakers of the party would come under direct command of Mr Zardari, after his becoming president of the PPP-P and he would be able to take action against them directly.

Some legal experts in the PPP were against the idea because the move could create challenges for the party. The sources said Mr Zardari would have to relinquish the PPP co-chairman’s office as an individual cannot become head or even a member of two political parties at the same time.

They said if Mr Zardari decided not to head the PPP-P, then he would definitely need a true loyal person like Mr Fahim for this important post.

Technically and legally, both Mr Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at present have no role in the affairs of the Parliamentarians version of the party which was set up in 2002 to counter the move by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to keep the party and its exiled leadership out of the election race.

Through the Political Parties Order, 2002, Mr Musharraf had declared that the head of a party must be present in the country to contest elections and that a political party headed by a convicted person could not participate in the polls.

When contacted, Mr Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said “so far no decision has been taken about the next president of the PPP-P”.

PPP information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said no formal meeting had been held or planned on the issue. However, he said the matter would soon be discussed at an appropriate forum of the party and a decision would be taken after consultations.

Mr Kaira said there was no urgency to discuss the matter.

Both of the leaders, however, refused to make a direct comment on the possibility of Mr Zardari assuming the office.

At present, PPP and PPP-Parliamentarians are registered with the ECP as two separate political parties having different office-bearers.

The PPP now has no representation in parliament since it contested three previous elections from the platform of PPP-P and its members in the Senate and the National Assembly form the parliamentary group of the PPP-P.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2015

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