THIS is an exciting moment in Pakistan’s history, with the country heading into its first democratic transition. And part of what makes it promising is the presence this time of a bold, active and independent Election Commission of Pakistan that is willing to step on some influential toes to make elections freer and fairer.

The ECP should function independently of the president, so the law ministry’s demand that the amended nomination forms for election candidates needed his approval had no merit and the commission took an important step by proceeding with the printing of the forms anyway. The move sent a strong message that the ECP is beholden to neither the government nor the head of state as it prepares the country for polls.

But reformist zeal doesn’t have to mean creating needless complexity and treating all politicians as if they have something to hide. Critics of the amendments have a point: several of the new questions are unnecessary and intrusive. Graduation is no longer required for contesting elections, so the continued focus on documenting educational qualifications, for example, feels like a witch-hunt rather than a constructive move forward. Details about assets already appear on the tax returns candidates will submit with their applications. Whether or not candidates are living within their means is a matter for the Federal Board of Revenue to investigate, so the need for the ECP to ask detailed questions about travel and other family spending remains unclear. If the FBR doesn’t have returns on file or complete information about a person’s financial situation, or the numbers don’t quite add up, that would warrant a deeper look to see if a particular candidate is evading taxes. But the ECP has neither the time nor the resources to sift through reams of data supplied by every applicant.

Perhaps the least defensible question of all, though, is about what candidates have done for their constituencies. That is for nobody but voters to decide. The notion that our politicians are incompetent is entirely justified, but that doesn’t warrant asking them to prove their contribution in any court outside that of the people. Together with some of the other questions, this one too reveals a suspicion of democratic politics that runs through the new nomination forms and, given Pakistan’s history, has the potential to feed the dangerous perception that perhaps civilian governments are not right for this country.


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Comments (17) (Closed)


akhter husain
Mar 14, 2013 01:45pm

Assert the boss of my friend used to advise him,though he had turned around a losing commercial project.The best way to make the elections fairer and freer is to make arrangements as simple as possible, leaving no room for deceit.This kind of questioning will encourage lies and frauds if some of the candidates get the nod.The editorial is timely and the ECP should not feel deprived of power by withdrawing such questions..

kam
Mar 14, 2013 01:22pm

The ECP should go further and make inellegible anyone who has not held subordinate elected office previously. More the scrutiny the better. MOST politicians are corrupt. Well done to ECP.

M.Asghar
Mar 14, 2013 11:13am

The ECP has the right and duty to ensure clean and fair elections and this includes all the information about the postulating candidates.

peace
Mar 14, 2013 10:40am
In Pakistan whoever get power want to use to with utmost force. EC is just following the footsteps of SC!
Guest63
Mar 14, 2013 10:45am

"Condemn if you do not , More Condemn if you do! " , that is the fallacy of our national motto on any thing is not done or done .... ECP for the first time in 6 decades Trying its level best to bring out the Reality Of our so called Representatives/Leaders , up in open for every body to see " what they are worth " , SCP has ruled that ECP action is rightly under the proverb of Constitutional requirements .... Then off course there you are as an intellectual , Wasting your time and energies on Hypothesis mentioned in your ending line ! You are like an Elephant , if some one crosses from the front he will try to grab with his trunk or throw nasty thing via it , if some one tries to go from behind , he would try to hit with his powerful back kicks ......... No way to go Past such a raging elephant

sillai khan
Mar 14, 2013 10:24am

what s the problem with just mentioning tax nos, graduations qualification,and others.ECP s not meant to scruitnize all these sorts of information .infact it is the responsibility of concern dept.But by just mentioning in ECP form ,we (common ppl) can chalange all these informations in coart in future,if we found that Mr A,B had given wrong statements.one thing more,it is only the problem of NAWAZ ZARDARI and CO.i dont understand how DAWN is also supporting NAWAZ zardari stanse.

Iftikhar Husain
Mar 14, 2013 12:22pm
It is a good start we understand the complex nature of our people where all is done behind the curtain it is high time that the honest people must take over.
Syed Ahmed
Mar 14, 2013 02:16pm
If voters had the sense of making the right decision, Zardari?s government would not have created mess in Pakistan ? economy at its lowest ebb, heap of foreign and domestic loans. As of today, each Pakistani, including the new born are under debit of Rs.100,000. Under the circumstances what the ECP is doing, is just right and majority of Pakistani will supports their views. This way the corrupt elements will be sieved and relatively better people will enter the assemblies.
MAB
Mar 14, 2013 03:49pm
Agreed. The ECP must refrain from overreaching its scope. It needs to do its job and not embark on populist acts that are not strictly inline with what the law requires. At this particularly sensitive juncture, we need all parties committed to democracy to play their part and not create undue excitement.
Keti Zilgish
Mar 14, 2013 04:40pm
Whether it is a civilian government or otherwise it has no alternative other than to be authoritarian. If the people want any less or no authoritarianism they have no alternative other than to reject all bosses whether from a government or any other organization.
Malak Ghulam
Mar 14, 2013 04:54pm
ECP is correct in what it is doing. Legislatives are elected for FIVE YEARS. And it is virtually impossible to get rid of them even when are on the wrong side of the law. So many ministers were kicked out but got back in. HOW AND WHY? The media and the ECP should help make this Selection Process a better way UNLESS you want another Five Years of the "HAVEs and HAVE NOTs" Both the citizens of Pakistan and Pakistan are getting POORER day by day. WHY?
Naseer
Mar 14, 2013 06:58pm
Do voters really have a choice? Is Nawaz Sharif any better than Zardari? Only hope is with Dr. Tahir Ul Qadri, Imran Khan and General Pervaiz Musharraf. If they unite, they can do some good. Add to that, PML (Q), ANP and MQM and they can probably win the election too.
Ahmed
Mar 14, 2013 09:57pm
Good editorial. It seems Qadri's self-serving shenanigans (which the PPP went unnecessarily gave more importance to than it deserved by making "deals" with it) of appointing himself accuser and judge of ECP and demanding the removal of the ECP officials may have had the effect of pushing ECP to go beyond any reason in checking credentials.
hasan
Mar 14, 2013 10:01pm
Sorry, but it would appear that the bulk of the politicians DO in fact have something to hide. Extreme situation rquires extreme measures. Well done ECP!
Usman
Mar 15, 2013 01:19am
Dear Editor, yes it seems the ECP does not have the means to do accountability on its own, but it does have the ability to gather effective data that can help it make a judgment on the eligibility of candidates. The nomination form may have over stepped the marked, but only slightly. In short, candidates who are not corrupt should have no problem in filling out the form
Shahid Khan
Mar 15, 2013 03:17am
Come on , I don't understand why the writer is so critical about the new EC application form . If the ECP has been trusted to hold fair and transparent election then it is ECP right to make sure that the tainted and crooks don't reappear at the helms of affairs again. To achieve this if ECP has added some probing questions that could filter those crooks the nation sees no harm in it. Those who wish to participate in incoming election and if they are honest and sincere they shouldn't have any objection to come clean and allow themselves to any scrutiny irrespective whetther the questions falls into ECP domains or not . The nation sees the issue as, that it should make no difference to would be parliamentarians and senators to come clean when ever asked to . I think the writer has an hidden agenda to malign the ECP
Iftikhar Husain
Mar 15, 2013 01:12pm
It is definitely a good development for making a fair election.