It was supposed to be a process of scrutiny of every election hopeful who’s submitted his/her nomination papers to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
What it seems to have deteriorated into, however, is a witch-hunt comprising Returning Officers out to humiliate politicians on questions of religion, personal life and even their appearance.
The main justification being provided for these interrogations are article 62 and article 62 of the Constitution – articles which did not exist in the original 1973 Constitution and were inserted by the military dictator Ziaul Haq.
Article 62, for one, explains the criterion of “qualifications for member of Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament)” and its clause (e) reads: “He has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sins.”The clauses also call for candidates to be ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ (honest and righteous) – names given to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Many argue, however, that one’s faith and knowledge of religion cannot be gauged by questions asked by elections staff, who in turn may themselves not be qualified according to the very standards they have set. Members of civil society have also strongly spoken out against the scrutiny techniques.
In addition, election officials have also taken the opportunity to embarrass female candidates – one candidate, Tayyaba Sohail Cheema, was asked to show her face to everyone because she “seemed so much younger” than her actual age. Another candidate’s husband was told how his family life will be ruined because of his wife’s involvement in politics.
Now, candidates are being rejected left, right and centre as a result. Ayaz Amir, the PML-N candidate for NA-60 and a renowned journalist, was rejected based purely on an opinion expressed in a news column which was alleged to be against the ‘ideology of Pakistan’.
Others too have been rejected, such as Faisal Saleh Hayat on allegations of water theft – but many are questioning how this can be done without proof.
Many, however, are glad to see people they see as ‘looters of the country’ facing their come uppance, so to speak.
What view do you agree with? Do aspiring contestants deserve this kind of ‘merciless scrutiny’? Or have the officials gone too far?
Moreover, even if a rigorous scrutiny process is in order, is the criterion rational? Is it right for the Returning Officers to judge who is Sadiq and Ameen?