KARACHI, July 14: Almost all political parties, particularly the main-stream political parties, PPP and PML(N), today find themselves in a trouble as all their exercise of selecting candidates for the October polls proved futile after the Supreme Court’s ruling, validating the graduation condition for contesting the general elections.
An announcement by the election commission, too, required the political parties to conduct their home elections and submit their audit reports along with their party manifestoes.
These two developments have taken political parties by surprise. Even a number of parties do not have copies of their printed manifestos and record of membership forms what to talk of the record of party elections.
In most of the cases, election exercise used to be carried out through press releases instead of holding party conventions to elect the office-bearers and the central committees and office-bearers used to be nominated by the political parties.
Recently, one of the mainstream political parties, PPP, invited applications from aspirants to be chosen as party candidates in elections for provincial or national assembly seats, indicating their choice.
The candidates were reportedly interviewed by the party leadership in exile by phone to judge their merit but the decision was put to the back-burner till the announcement of the election schedule.
According to a party spokesman, Munawwar Suhrawardi, the PPP has received hundreds of applications from the party members and keeping in view the brief history and social commitment of the candidates, a short list has been prepared with three candidates on each seat, as the graduation condition was not going to effect the party. But the condition of home elections could be used by the regime as a tool to keep the mainstream political parties out of the election arena, he said and added that the matter would shortly be taken up with legal experts.
But some insiders said most of the experienced legislators who were not graduate have applied along with their graduate family members for the ticket in their respective parties for the October elections 2002. But, after the announcement of the proposed amendments in the Constitution, making graduation condition mandatory, they were disappointed.
When the PML (Quaid-i-Azam) and Awami National Party challenged the graduation condition, they were quite hopeful that the condition would be waived as it was affecting even the people like Gohar Ayub who has soft corner for the government.
In the PML(N), according to its senior Vice President Mian Ejaz Shafi, they are expecting all such measures from the government which can open the constituencies for its favourite candidates by disqualifying the mainstream parties.
The Alliance for Restoration of Democracy, a conglomerate of some 15 parties and groups, headed by PPP and PML(N), at its recent meeting in Karachi kept both options of participation in elections and mustering support of all other political and religious parties outside its fold, including Jamaat-i-Islami, which consider the reforms package contrary to the federal and parliamentary forms of the government which would lead the country towards a unitary form of government.
Some of them want to mobilize street power to force President Pervez Musharraf to step down and hand over power to a caretaker setup of the national consensus for holding free and fair elections in the country and transfer power to the elected representatives under the 1973 Constitution. However, these views are not subscribed by a larger group and they consider that it would cause a setback to democracy.
Some of the parties have also proposed that they should boycott the elections if the government does not concede to the ARD demands of restoring the 1973 Constitution, setting up an independent election commission to hold fair and free elections. However, the mainstream parties do not like to leave the field open for the ‘kings’ parties.
After a recent ARD meeting in Karachi, when veteran politician and head of the alliance Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan was asked a similar question about the boycott of the election, he ruled out the boycott of elections. All assumptions are now indicating that PPP and PML (N) leadership do not favour leaving the field open for government candidates.
After the EC’s declaration, except for the MQM and the JI, it appeared very difficult for the parties, to meet the condition of the PPO in such a short time.
Under PPO Article 13 every political party desiring to participate in October 2002 elections is required to submit certificate of the intra-party elections within seven days from the completion of the elections and submit audit reports within 60 days from the close of each financial year.
With the EC decision, the major political parties have been facing a new challenge how to overcome the situation in the absence of decision-making leadership in exile. If they don’t fulfil the requirement within 20 days, they will leave the field open for other parties.