PPP voices concern over denial of electoral symbol to candidates in Punjab

Published January 15, 2024
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to media in Qamber Shahdadkot on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to media in Qamber Shahdadkot on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday said his party would approach courts over the “prevailing trend” in Punjab where party candidates were being denied the ‘arrow’ symbol.

On Sunday, PPP Senator Taj Haider had written to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over PPP candidates Muhammad Fayyaz Bhatti and Mujahid Islam — contesting from PP-163 (Lahore) and PP-119 (Toba Tek Singh I) — not being allotted the ‘arrow’ symbol and being pushed in the independents category.

The issue of incorrect election symbols for PPP candidates comes as the party’s election campaign, led by Bilawal, has been in full swing in Punjab.

On several occasions, Bilawal has complained about the alleged historical discrimination against his party in the province. In a recent interaction with the media, he said the PPP could perform well in Punjab this time if provided a level playing field in the province.

Addressing the media in Sindh’s Qamber Shahadkot today, Bilawal accused the PML-N of taking advantage of the rift between the PTI, ECP, and Supreme Court by targeting PPP candidates in Punjab.

“Let me tell you that PML-N’s politics and their intentions are not democratic anymore,” Bilawal said. “They’re practising the same old politics that you all are aware of.”

He claimed that the PML-N wanted to “play alone” by keeping their opponents out of the field. “You know how they were brought to power in 1990, 1992, 1997, and 2013 and how they ran the government affairs.”

Bilawal vowed to fight the PML-N in the elections, saying that “Punjab will be with the ‘arrow’ and hunt the sher [tiger] down”.

“We don’t wish any political party to not have an electoral symbol,” he concluded. “We have been seeing for the past two days how PTI’s legal team was fighting.”

Earlier in the day, PPP leader Sherry Rehman termed the denial of the party’s electoral symbol to candidates as a cause of concern and demanded the ECP issue the correct one to ticket holders.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), the former climate change minister said Bhatti was given a ‘kettle’ symbol while Islam was allotted a ‘wheelchair’ instead of the ‘arrow’.

“We hope that these irregularities will be corrected as soon as possible,” she said.

PPP writes to ECP

Meanwhile, PPP’s Senator Haider has written a letter to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja conveying the party’s grievances in Punjab.

In two separate letters, copies of which are available with Dawn.com, Senator Haider, who is in charge of the party’s central election cell, urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to note the failure to issue the party symbol to candidates contesting from PP-20 (Chakwal) and PP-21 (Chakwal II).

He said that both the party candidates, Chaudhary Naushad Khan and Raja Amjad Noor, had been denied the party symbol and were listed as independent candidates despite having party tickets. The letters requested CEC Raja to direct the returning officers (ROs) to issue the ‘arrow’ symbol to both candidates.

A separate letter by Haider specifically brought the CEC’s attention to the denial of the party symbol to candidates. He cited Section 66 of the Election Act, 2017, saying that it was the “only and the final requirement for seeking allotment of a prescribed symbol”.

Emphasising that the whole system of constitutional democracy was built around the structure of political parties, the senator said: “We have repeatedly experienced that the presence of independents in an elected house does open an unfortunate window for horse trading and exerting pressures on elected independents.”

He said independents were often elected by taking advantage of “parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian, and provincial prejudices” adding that under Article 33 of the Constitution, it was the state’s duty to discourage such and similar prejudices.

He said that pushing candidates affiliated with a party into the category of independents was contrary to the provisions of Article 33 of the Constitution.

“We request issuance of your general instructions to all ROs and district returning officers (DROs) to allot prescribed symbols to all candidates who have at the time of seeking a prescribed symbol submitted a certificate from their party regarding their affiliation to that party,” the letter concluded.

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