ISLAMABAD - Despite being registered as a separate political party, Pakistan Muslim League-Likeminded (PML-LM) would remain devoid of any legal standing in the Parliament, only to stay as a faction of PML-Quaid-e-Azam on the papers, till the next general elections are held and the parliamentary assemblies are constituted.
In the light of the constitutional and electoral laws, the official recognition of the PML-Q’s breakaway faction as a separate political force would not allow its members to contest by-elections from the platform of PML-LM but PML-Q in the existing Parliament while senior Likeminded leader Salim Saifullah contends that his party would not go for by-polls for Senate, national or provincial assemblies in the present parliamentary set-up.
By-polls are to be held in 12 parliamentary seats of following the disqualification of a dozen dual nationality-holder legislators. Former Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Kanwar Dilshad says the registration of PML-LM as a separate political party has no legal status in the present assemblies. “On the papers, the members of the Likeminded bloc are still part of PML-Q. The PML-Q leadership can send a reference in the election commission to get them disqualified against the registration of a new party while being part of the Q-League, technically,” he told this newspaper.
“The reference can be sent by the PML-Q head Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain or Parliamentary Leader Faisal Saleh Hayat but I think both the leaders would let it go. They won’t move against the LM bloc. Also, the process to disqualify a parliamentarian is a lengthy one and there isn’t a lot of time left for the present assemblies. Riaz Pirzada left Q-League to join PML-N and Awais Leghari joined PTI but the PML-Q leadership didn’t move against them.”
While the electoral provisions allow the PML-LM leaders to conduct political activities outside the Parliament, the rules do not approve of separate identity for the newly formed party in the present parliamentary assemblies and Senate.
According to Article 63 A (1) (a) that deals with the disqualification of parliamentarians, the disqualification on the grounds of defection, (becomes applicable) if a member of a parliamentary party composed of a single political party in a house resigns from membership of his political party or joins another parliamentary party.
In such case, the rules provide, he/she can contest elections on the ticket of the party he/she joined only after vacating the parliamentary seat.
The PML-LM leaders had contested the 2008 parliamentary elections on the PML-Q ticket. This, under the existing laws, implies that the status of their parliamentary memberships would remain unchanged unless the Likeminded leaders join a party that has strength in the parliament. Moreover, the parliamentary seats won from the PML-Q platform cannot be delegated to the PML-LM.
Talking to The Nation, senior Likeminded leader Salim Saifullah Khan said that his party was not eyeing by-polls in the present parliament. “We are formulating our strategy for the coming general elections that are not far. Contesting by-polls in the present parliament would not do us any good as these assemblies are about to complete their tenure. We’re also aware that the existing rules do not allow us to contest the polls in the present parliamentary arrangement.”
In the past, the PML-Q had moved ECP for the disqualification of the Likeminded leaders who had formed a breakaway faction out of their parent party owing to their serious differences with the party leadership, some three years ago. The ECP did not take action against the legislators from the breakaway bloc apparently because the Likeminded group did not have any legal status and technically, the LM parliamentarians were part of the Q-League before the registration of PML-LM as a separate political party.
Earlier this year, the Member National Assembly Awais Leghari left PML-Q and joined Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), without vacating the NA seat. Riaz Pirzada did the same to join PML-Nawaz. Leghari was not proceeded against on the grounds that the party he joined had no parliamentary strength (PTI is not a parliamentary party). In case of Riaz Pirzada, the PML-Q had the option to send disqualification reference to the ECP but the party did not exercise this option.
Last Wednesday, the ECP extended registration to the PML-LM along with six other parties; Pakistan Justice Party, Pakistan Muhammadi Party, Public Forum, Pakistan Falah Party, Pakistan Hizbullah Party and All Pakistan Peoples Qaumi Movement.