A set of newly proposed amendments to nomination papers by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) appeared to be a bitter pill for lawmakers from the government and opposition who expressed their willingness on Wednesday for scrutiny but sought changes in its modus operandi.
A day after the ECP unveiled over a dozen changes in the existing nomination papers, the lawmakers discussed the issue in the National Assembly.
Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan termed the requirement of a three-year financial history a ‘mockery’ and Raza Hayat Hiraj highlighted the taboo of providing the names of their children and spouses, but added that they were willing for scrutiny.
Once Chaudhry Nisar began the discussion over fresh letters sent by the ECP to MPs over fake degrees, political parties availed the opportunity to express their concerns with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, saying the commission’s actions – ban on recruitments and development funds – were a violation of the Constitution and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) urged others to obey the commission like it did during the verification of voters in Karachi.
In order to deal with the situation, Chaudhry Nisar proposed the constitution of a parliamentary committee which would meet the chief election commissioner and express their concerns. The proposal was endorsed by Hiraj and Riaz Fatyana of PML-Q and by the government. However, there was no official announcement on the proposed commission.
It all began when Chaudhry Nisar grilled the ECP over a letter which he said was not a “civilised way to interact with an MP”. The letter, warning of criminal proceedings, sought the submission of his education certificates along with 249 other MPs within 15 days. He clarified that he has taken both his O-level and A-level exams and floated the proposal that the commission verify this itself, along with all other MPs records.
“The Supreme Court does not allow public ridicule of MPs, the commission should have sent the letter without the threat of criminal proceedings,” Chaudhry Nisar added. “I refuse to furnish the required documents to the ECP unless the threatening letter is withdrawn… let the commission disqualify me.”
The commission should discuss changes with us, the real stakeholders, he added.
Law Minister Farooq Naek endorsed Chaudhry Nisar’s views over the fake degree issue and went on to say that “the ECP is violating Article 218 of the Constitution, since the elections schedule has not yet been announced but it has put a ban on development works.”
“Elections are just round the corner and such actions [by the ECP] may erode people’s hope for free and fair elections, which would be a conspiracy against democracy,” he added while expressing hope that the ECP would withdraw all 250 letters sent to MPs for submission of their educational certificates.
Chaudhry Nisar was quick to add, however, “we do not want to hinder the ECP in the verification of financial history but there is a civilised way to it.”
MQM’s Farooq Sattar said the degree issue should not be taken as a matter of ego and urged the MPs not to make the commission “controversial”.
Hiraj called for a change in the amendments proposed by the commission saying, “perhaps no member in this house would be willing to write in the name of his/her daughters.” “We are ready for strict scrutiny but it should not be the way it is,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2013.