Chaudhrys shying away from intra-party polls

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Despite the lapse of seven months since the due date for intra-party election in the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) expired, the ruling coalition partner appears to be in no mood to hold polls in accordance with its constitution.

On July 20, 2009, the PML-Q Central Workers Council (CWC) had re-elected unopposed Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain as the party’s president and secretary general respectively, leaving divisions within the party as the dissident group boycotted the elections and moved the ECP over alleged anomalies in the party poll.

Kamil Ali Aga, the then PML-Q chief election commissioner, had declared Shujaat and Mushahid winners under apparently dummy party polls, as according to him, no candidate had filed nominations against the two leaders within stipulated time.

According to the PML-Q constitution available at the party’s website, “Every office-bearer shall hold office for a term of three years.” Under its own constitutional provisions, the PML-Q had to hold intra-party election on July 20, 2012, but the party leadership failed to do so. Moreover, the party looks in no mood to hold polls, which are essential to make the party eligible for participation in the general elections.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made it a rule that no political party would be able to get an election symbol until it holds intra-party elections. But on the contrary, the PML-Q is yet to announce the date for intra-party elections. However, this time around, this is not going to happen as several heavy weights of the party are planning to confront the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, leaving the party’s top leadership shying away from holding intra-party polls.

A source in the PML-Q told Pakistan Today that Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was afraid that intra-party polls might leave the party in tatters, as the Chaudhrys of Gujrat wanted to keep their grip over party matters. However, according to the source, the top leadership seems afraid of the precedent of last election, which left the party divided into PML-Q and PML-Likeminded. “I can tell you that if party election is announced, many candidates would challenge the Chaudhrys. They are running from the polls just due to this reason as they cannot afford such humiliation. They can only hold election when they are 100 percent sure of winning polls unopposed,” the source added.

When contacted, PML-Q Information Secretary Kamil Ali Agha, who also performed as the party’s chief election commissioner in the last election, said that the party’s executive committee had extended the duration of the intra-party elections. “The timeframe of the intra-party elections has been extended by the executive committee of the party,” said Agha. However, upon being asked when and where the meeting had been held, Agha said that he was attending a wedding ceremony and could not take more questions. Later, he did not respond to calls made on his cell phone.

Under the PML-Q’s constitution, the Central Executive Committee has no such powers to increase the timeframe of the party election, as it has only an advisory mandate, and without amending its constitution, no such powers can be exercised.

“There shall be a Central Executive Committee consisting of Thirty Members nominated by the President amongst the Members of Central Working Committee (CWC), which shall work as advisory body to advise the President on the matters referred to it within the jurisdiction of Central Working Committee,” says the PML-Q constitution.

Last month, the ECP warned about 114 political parties, including the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its coalition partners Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the PML-Q, to conduct intra-party elections before the announcement of the polls’ schedule, or else they would be barred from contesting general election.

The ECP also issued a list of 114 political parties among a total 216 registered parties that had failed to conduct intra-party elections and submit their results to the ECP so far.

According to the announcement made by the ECP, fresh electoral symbols would be issued only to those political parties that complied with the related sections of the Political Parties Order 2002 and Allocation of Symbols Order 2002 to hold intra-party elections and submit annual accounts statements.

It has been obligatory for every political party to hold the party elections after a specific period mentioned in the respective constitution of a party, so the PML-Q had to conduct intra-party elections. Failure to hold party election should make the PML-Q unable to contest the upcoming polls.