IT could be that at least some of the stories we hear about the traditionally corrupt politician running after power and pelf are exaggerated, but over the last couple of years there have been appalling revelations of politicians indulging in all sorts of unethical practices. Such practices pertain not only to the money they made while in office but also to the cheating they resorted to in order to get elected. Scores of them were discovered to have fake academic degrees, dodged taxes, avoided paying utility bills and hidden dual nationalities. Invariably, the embarrassing discovery was made by either the judiciary, the National Accountability Bureau or the media. Under these circumstances, the lead given by the PML-N leadership in matters of internal scrutiny of all ticket seekers deserves to be followed by other parties. The “no corruption” pledge by over 3,000 PML-N hopefuls on Friday is of little consequence. Politicians the world over make promises only to ignore them when in power. What is precedent-setting is the PML-N’s decision that it will itself scrutinise the credentials of all candidates. This makes eminent sense and should serve to save the party and the candidates themselves from embarrassment.
The new nomination form designed by the ECP is comprehensive and seeks details to ensure that a candidate contesting elections conforms to its eligibility criteria. The form has been criticised, with many politicians objecting to the ECP’s wish to know details which they say are not relevant, and that fall within the jurisdiction of other state institutions. While it is certainly true that some of the information the ECP requires is totally unnecessary and intrusive, those candidates with nothing to hide should have no reason to fear such scrutiny.
It is here that an internal scrutiny system could prove useful. Let us accept: the PML-N ‘hopefuls’ are powerful people. Their list is long. The PML-N has been a ruling party and quite a few of its members, including some at the top, have been involved in shenanigans of all sorts. Will the leadership of the PML-N refuse tickets to them? Party candidates may make any number of solemn pledges because they wouldn’t get tickets otherwise, but their record in office speaks louder than their pledges of honesty. It is better that political parties themselves reject those with dubious credentials instead of leaving it to the ECP, or any other authority, to herald their disqualification by going public with details of fraud, cheating and criminality.