As a result of a big increase in the number of political parties, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has fallen short of election symbols as the registered parties have outnumbered the available symbols.

The number of registered parties reached 216 on Tuesday with the addition of another 19. This coincided with the receipt of a communication by the ECP about approval by the president of its summary on election symbols.

In 2008 elections, 147 symbols were used. With another 34 symbols approved by the presidency and deletion of eight, as proposed by the ECP, the number of symbols has risen to 173.

Briefing reporters after a meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, the commission’s Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan said that on an average 15 new political parties sought registration every month. Although forming an association was a fundamental right, he said, standards would have to be set to check mushroom growth of parties.

On an application filed by PML-N Secretary General Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, the ECP decided to delete ‘cat’ from the list of symbols. A fresh summary seeking deletion and addition of some symbols will soon be sent to the president through the ministry of law, justice and parliamentary affairs.

The ECP decided to hear points of view of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf and the Jamaat-i-Islami because both of them want the symbol of ‘scale’ (balance) allotted to them.

A date will be set for hearing an application filed by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) which seeks a change in the appearance of the symbol ‘book’. The party wants it an ‘open book’ because the existing symbol looks like a match box.

The meeting rejected a request made by the Balochistan chief secretary for postponing by-election for a provincial assembly seat in PB-18 (Sherani-cum-Zhob) constituency scheduled for Dec 24 because of the law and order situation. The commission observed that maintaining law and order was the responsibility of the provincial government.

About a reference seeking disqualification of 43 members of the Punjab Assembly for allegedly holding dual nationality, the ECP decided to take up the matter after Nov 30. Mr Khan said 30 lawmakers were yet to declare that they did not hold dual citizenship.

The meeting also took up the case of disqualification of MNAs Donya Aziz and Arif Aziz Sheikh for holding dual nationality. After coming to know that they were foreign nationals by birth, the commission declared that disqualifying them was not within its purview.