ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will contest by-elections for National Assembly seats from Sindh on separate election symbols.

An informed source told Dawn that the reason behind this was a legal hitch. Under Section 5 (3) of the Political Parties Order 2002, a person cannot be a member of more than one political party at a time.

He pointed out that Asif Ali Zardari was president of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P) and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as per the list of political parties enlisted with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

He said the PPP-P had been allotted the symbol of ‘arrow’ and the PPP ‘two swords’ by the ECP prior to the 2013 general elections. And now the two leaders are required to contest the polls from the platforms of their respective political parties under separate election symbols.

The source said the issue of PPP-P and PPP had come under discussion during a party meeting on Dec 27, but no decision could be taken. During a public rally in Larkana the same day, Mr Zardari had announced that he and his son would contest the elections to enter parliament.

The former president disclosed that Mohammad Ayaz Soomro, an MNA from NA-204 (Larkana), and Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, an MNA from NA-213 (Nawabshah), had sent their resignations to the party leadership for their onward submission to the National Assembly speaker at an ‘appropriate time’ to enable Mr Zardari and his son to contest the by-polls.

The source said that under Article 224 of the Constitution, the by-election to a National Assembly constituency was to take place within 60 days of the occurrence of the vacancy.

The PPP had formed a separate entity, PPP-P, in August 2002 to meet the requirements of a decree issued by the then military ruler. A law was framed to bar Benazir Bhutto from holding a party office and the new political entity was a bid to avert the imminent threat of losing the chance of contesting the elections.

Published in Dawn January 5th, 2017