ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians will contest the July 25 elections on its traditional ‘arrow’ symbol in alliance with the PPP, the parent organization.

The PPPP announced on Tuesday that despite the Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to allot ‘sword’ as election symbol to the PPP, the party will form an alliance with the PPPP to contest on the ‘arrow’ symbol.

“The PPPP will contest on the ‘arrow’ symbol in alliance with the PPP (which has ‘sword’ as its symbol). The two parties have agreed to contest on the (single) ‘arrow’ symbol. The PPP will retain its ‘sword’ symbol but will contest with the PPPP (with the ‘arrow’ symbol’,” said a PPPP spokesperson. He said the PPPP was led by Asif Ali Zardari while the PPP was headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Earlier in the day, the ECP allotted election symbols to political parties for the July 25 polls. The PPP, founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had contested the 1970 elections with ‘sword’ as its symbol. ‘Sword’ was used by the party before it was removed from the list of election symbols by the ECP following polls in 1970. The PPP has not contested elections as a party since 1996. The PPPP has been contesting on behalf of the PPP.

PPP Secretary-General Nayyar Hussain Bokhari said the party opted for the ‘sword’ symbol for elections in 1970. After the martial law was imposed in 1985, the ‘sword’ was removed as an election symbol. “Even the ECP did not enlist it as an official symbol,” he said.

Bokhari said that the ‘sword’ was the PPP’s right as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto opted for it. Four other parties had applied for the ‘sword’ symbol, including the Pakistan Peoples Movement, which was launched by former PPP leader Dr Tanveer Zaman. The Pakistan People’s Party (Workers) had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court contending for the sword symbol as well. Naheed Khan, the wife of Safdar Abbasi, had filed the petition.

Naheed Khan said that the PPP leadership contested the elections under their parliamentarian wing and was just taking the ‘sword’ symbol out of spite. “If Bokhari can swear he will fight elections on the ‘sword’ and not the ‘arrow’, we will believe him,” she added.

PPPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar said there was no need of a formal alliance between the PPPP and the PPP as they were accepted as the same party by the people.

The law, he said, allowed two parties to contest under one symbol if they were in agreement. “The law permits the PPP and the PPPP to contest on the arrow. When the two parties agree, there should be no issue,” he said.

He added: “We have a precedent in shape of the MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal) where several parties kept their identities but contested under one symbol in the past.”

Zardari and Bilawal are the elected leaders of the PPPP and the PPP. They co-chair the PPP. The PPPP has been contesting the polls on behalf of the PPP since 2002 and efforts to re-engage the PPP have faced legal hurdles. The PPPP will contest the fourth successive general election for the PPP in July as the merger of the electoral extension with the parent party seemed tricky.

The PPPP was created from within the PPP in 2002 during the military regime of Pervez Musharraf to dodge a law that prohibited the parties led by convicted leaders from contesting the polls. The law kept the late Benazir Bhutto and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif out of the electoral race.

The law – now scrapped - also banned individuals from becoming the prime minister for a third term. While the PPP created a separate branch to contest the polls, Sharif relinquished his post to his brother Shahbaz Sharif to make way for his party – the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to contest the polls.  Both the parties performed reasonably well keeping in view that arch nemesis Musharraf was in power.

The PPPP contested again in 2008 to win the general polls for the PPP and in 2013 to end up as the second largest bloc in the National Assembly. It won elections in Sindh to form the provincial government.

PPP sources said that Zardari and Bilawal had been considering the ‘Punjab crisis’ in the recent weeks and hope to improve the party’s standing in the July 25 polls.

“We are banking on South Punjab. We are being realistic and are trying to get whatever share we can get. We know, we will not be winning too many seats in Punjab. We hope some independents will join us after the polls to improve our tally,” said a senior PPP leader.

PPP South Punjab Secretary General Natasha Daultana said the party was mobilizing workers in rural Punjab and was optimistic to grab some seats. “We are not out. We are in the game. The opponents had ruled us out in the past but we made a comeback each time. We will return strong again,” she said.

Punjab was once a stronghold of the PPP during the peak of Zulfikar Bhutto but it slowly drifted away to the right-wing or pro-right parties. The ruling PML-N has been firmly in control of the province over the recent past. Its monopoly has. however, been challenged by Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

The province, with a bigger population than all the other provinces combined, is effectively the ‘king-maker’ with scores of the National Assembly seats up for grab.