ISLAMABAD, March 25: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) allocated the election symbol of “arrow” to the PPP-Parliamentarians on Monday amid protest by a group of dissidents seeking registration as PPP.

The group -- led by Naheed Khan, a confidant of Benazir Bhutto -- announced that it would challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.

Naheed Khan had applied for registration of her party with the name of the PPP and sought “arrow” or “sword” as election symbols. The chief of PPP (SB), Ghinwa Bhutto, had sought renaming of her party as PPP and asked for “sword” as the symbol.

An application for registration of PPP had also been filed by Senator Jehangir Badar. Now another application has been filed by Sardar Abdul Lateef Khosa, taking the number of contenders to four.

The bench, which comprised all four members of the commission, reserved judgement on enlistment of PPP.

During the course of hearing, Jehangir Badar said he had been nominated secretary general of the party by Benazir Bhutto in 1999 when a dictator was in power. He said the PPP’s registration had been cancelled when Gen Musharraf was in power and that the decision had been challenged in the Sindh High Court. He handed over a copy of the petition and relevant record to the commission.

On a query from the commission, Lateef Khosa said Jehangir Badar was an asset for the PPP. However, he (Badar) had been asked to quit as leader of the house and vacate the Senate seat before the party polls, but he refused to do so.

When the commission asked whether both the PPP and the PPP-P would be taking part in elections, Mr Khosa replied that it was an internal matter of the party. He said Naheed Khan and Ghinwa Bhutto would not be allowed to hijack the party, making many to believe that his application after that of Mr Badar was a tactical move.

When the commission announced its decision to allocate the symbol of “arrow” to the PPP-P, activists of Naheed Khan-led dissident group got angry and started raising slogans against the ECP.

Talking to reporters, Naheed Khan said during the last hearing on March 19, the allocation of symbols (to PPPs) was kept pending till a decision about registration of PPP. “Why the hearing had been put off that day if the decision was to be announced (today)”. She alleged that the commission was not independent.

The activists of PPP-P and the Naheed Khan-led group clashed on the premises of the ECP when the latter tried to snatch placards inscribed with slogans against their leader from their rivals.

The activists not only exchanged hot words and filthy language but also indulged in scuffles. Shoes were thrown at each other by the rivals raising slogans for and against President Asif Ali Zardari. Some activists received injuries and were taken to hospital. The brawl lasted for almost half an hour.

In another significant development, Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim has transferred the Election Commissioner of Sindh, Mehboob Anwar, to Punjab. He will replace Tariq Qadri, who has been transferred to Sindh.

DECISION REVERSED: The ECP has announced that it is not mandatory for those desirous of contesting elections to submit their nomination papers in person. The announcement came a day after the commission said it was a requirement.

The provision of section 12 (3) of the Representation of Peoples Act-1976 had recently been amended by the two houses of the parliament and an assent to the bill was accorded by the president on March 20. Under the amended provision, “every nomination paper shall be delivered to the returning officer by the candidate or by his “proposer or seconder” or if, so authorised in writing by the candidate, by his nominee”.

An official of the commission said an intimation about the amendment had been received only on Monday. He said instructions had been issued to returning officers.

The amendment had been introduced in 2002 by president Pervez Musharraf to keep then PPP chief Benazir Bhutto and the PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif out of electoral process. Ms Bhutto was living in self-exile in the UK and Nawaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia at that time.

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