ISLAMABAD: Only a day after delisting 13 political parties over their failure to conduct the mandated intra-party elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in its decision announced on Saturday allowed the Awami National Party (ANP) to contest polls on its election symbol of “Lantern” despite its failure to fulfil the legal requirement.

While announcing its reserved verdict, the ECP imposed a fine of Rs20,000 on the ANP with the direction to hold intra-party polls till May 10, some three months even after the Feb 8 general elections.

The order made many wonder under which law the ECP could allow one party, and not the other, to participate in general elections on its election symbol without intra-party election. Why the concession was not available to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, they question.

ECP allows the party to fulfil legal requirement even after general elections

The ECP had earlier noted that ANP’s last intra-party polls were conducted in May 2019, and since the term of office-bearers was four years according to its constitution, the same had already expired over eight months back.

The verdict, which was reserved on Dec 21, on the intra-party polls of ANP was announced on the last date for allocation of symbols to the contesting candidates by the returning officers.

Sections 208, 209, and 210 of the Elections Act, 2017, have been invoked to delist over a dozen political parties for failure to meet the legal requirement to be eligible to get poll symbol.

A five-member bench of the ECP, headed by chief election commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, had earlier turned down ANP’s plea for a six-month time for conduct of intra-party elections, leaving a hint that ANP might not be able to contest the upcoming general election with its poll symbol.

The list of election symbols recently sent to the returning officers also did not include the symbol of “Lantern”.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2024

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