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Pakistan Election 2013 - Nomination form binds intellectual freedom

1 April 2013

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The Daily Times - March 27, 2013

ROVER’S DIARY: Nomination form binds intellectual freedom

by Babar Ayaz

Once a parliamentarian signs this ‘Oath’ he/she cannot propose to get out of the so-called ‘Islamic ideology’ bond by proposing deletion of the controversial articles of the constitution

Strong chances are that many old parliamentarians would be ousted if the criteria set in the 2013 elections nomination forms are closely followed. This may give an opportunity to many less known ‘cover candidates’, which each party will have to put up to meet the eventuality of disqualification of their first candidate. More importantly, my beef is with the ‘Declaration and Oath’ a candidate has to file with the nomination form. Many of the contestants who are supposed to sign it would have to be intellectually dishonest. And I think we all know this including the honourable CEC and judiciary. But they would say that these clauses are based on the Constitution of Pakistan. That indeed is correct, but once a parliamentarian signs this ‘Oath’ he/she cannot propose to get out of the so-called ‘Islamic ideology’ bond by proposing deletion of the controversial articles of the constitution.

Let’s analyse these two clauses of the nomination forms placed on the ECP website: Clause 1 (I) says, ‘I have consented to the above nomination and that, I fulfil the qualifications specified in Article 62 of the Constitution and I am not subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 63 of the Constitution or any other law for the time being in force for being elected as a member of the National Assembly/Provincial Assembly.’ Now read this oath in the light of sub-clause 62 (d): ‘he is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions’. Anybody from a constituency can get up and challenge a candidate for not offering five-time prayers and for not fasting, for instance, and file a petition. Any decision on this would be left in the hands of the judiciary and they will have to give a fatwa on who is a good Muslim and who is not.

Then there is sub-clause (e): ‘he has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices obligatory prescribed by Islam and abstains from major sins’. Again where in law is ‘adequate knowledge of Islam’ defined? Nowhere. Will the court or CEC hold a test of Islamiat? No. But what happens if Sheikh-ul-Islam Tahir-ul-Qadri decides to challenge a candidate on this basis?

Article 62 sub-clause (g) says: ‘he has not after the establishment of Pakistan worked against the integrity of the country or opposed the ideology of Pakistan’. In the first place again there is no explanation of ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ in the constitution. The Islamist claim is that Pakistan was made to implement Islamic Shari’a and draw strength from the Objectives Resolution, which was made a substantive part of the constitution. The courage-less parliamentarians did not scratch this out when the 8th or 18th Amendment was passed.

Now there are many people and leading parties who believe that Pakistan was created to protect the economic and political rights of the Muslim middle and affluent classes and not for what is expounded as ‘Islamic ideology’. Their candidates when asked to conform to this exclusionary ‘oath’ are actually forced to be intellectually dishonest. And intellectual dishonesty is more dangerous than financial dishonesty. It also binds the parliamentarians to adhere to their oath when elected. Thus, the oath restricts their right to even suggest that their party believes in the separation of state and religion.

The Muslims who lived in India before and after the partition of India were and are no less Muslim than those who live in Pakistan when it comes to following Islamic religious practices. The real issue before the Pakistan movement was protection of political and economic rights of the Muslims of India, not the religious right. All major documents of the All India Muslim League and its acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan show that Mr Jinnah wanted maximum autonomy for Muslim majority states of India and higher quota in jobs and parliament for the Muslims of the states where they were in a minority. Islam or following its religious practices was never in danger then, or today. The religion has survived for over 1,400 years in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. It does not need state sponsorship.

Similarly, clause 2 (i) is discriminatory against the Ahmadiya community. The candidates if elected cannot move a bill to do away with some of the sectarian clauses of the constitution inserted by Mr Bhutto and expanded by General Zia, even though many believe in it. They are afraid to remove these clauses. Justice Munir’s report had maintained that there was no basis for declaring Ahmedis non-Muslims in the early 1950s, but the perfidious General Ziaul Haq destroyed what little bit of secular structure was left in the country. And the result is that today such clauses are inserted in the nomination forms, which force candidates to be hypocrites.

However, whoever may be allowed to contest elections, there are many chances of the losing candidate challenging that the successful candidate is not qualified as per the nomination form declaration. So be prepared for much post-election litigation, in which people like Don Quixote Qadri are expected to be in the forefront.

The nomination form has so far been criticised by media luminaries for including the clauses that require a candidate to provide information of their income and expenditure and payment of taxes. The form is designed to catch the tax defaulter parliamentarians who live beyond their declared financial means. The aspiring candidates would definitely need the help of astute tax advisers to balance their personal financial statements.

From the recently dissolved national and provincial assemblies there are many who can be held responsible for not filing tax returns. The parliamentarian’s view is that the tax on their salaries is deducted at source and deposited by their respective assemblies. Right, but also wrong. Under the law if one has more than Rs 400,000 annual income, which they have, the person has to file a tax return. The parliamentarians cannot claim innocence that they did not know the law. Ignorance of the law is no defence. But typical of the developing world’s elected national and provincial members’ arrogance, they flouted this with as equal an ease as with which they break traffic rules. But where businessmen, including many media moguls, evade taxes, media bashing of politicians alone is a bit without a broader perspective of society.

The writer can be reached at ayazbabar at gmail.com

P.S.

reproduced here from Daily Times for educational and non commercial use.