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Needless delay: Dual office case

March 24, 2013

THE president has finally relinquished the title of PPP co-chairman. It is a sensible move, but it has come just a few months before the end of his term and after a long and pointless delay that achieved little more than wasting the judiciary’s time, creating another bone of contention between the judiciary and the ruling party, and making the president look disingenuous and unreasonable. Even now, the decision appears to have been triggered by a plan to register the PPP — which the president’s legal team has been calling a ‘private organisation’ — as a political party so that competitors can’t get their hands on the name or the desired election symbol. The fact of the matter is, though, that whether one calls it a private organisation, a registered political party or the already registered PPPP, the party was controlled by the president and will continue to be controlled by him for the foreseeable future. Relinquishing the title of co-chairman wouldn’t really have changed the way things work and would have avoided an unnecessary tussle.

It’s hard to miss the comparison with the ruling party’s approach to the National Reconciliation Ordinance case: refusing to write the letter to Swiss authorities — even at the cost of losing a prime minister — until it had its back to the wall and risked losing a second one. At that point it ended up doing what it could have done months earlier — thereby saving the country a lot of uncertainty — by writing a letter that ended up having no impact whatsoever on the fate of the president. The same argument applies here. One of the reasons the government survived as long as it did was because the ruling party showed some shrewd flexibility at the right time. The dual office case was not one of those instances.