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ONCE upon a time in our democratic future, the Election Commission introduced the use of the Thought-Detection Machine. This new device was considered to be a more effective way to determine the eligibility of candidates who filed nomination papers for elections to the National Assembly, the provincial assemblies and the Senate.

After the 2013 experience during which candidates were asked to recite verses from the Holy Quran or give the number for the compulsory parts of daily prayers by Muslims or even the number of mandated prayers per 24 hours, candidates had wised up to the possible perils at filing time.

In the 2018 pre-polls phase, virtually every candidate entered the rooms of Returning Officers (ROs) already loudly reciting verses from the holy book, a rosary in hand, at least two bearded companions, one to the left, one to the right.

The ROs were nonplussed.

When they attempted nevertheless to persist with their questions, some candidates had the gall to shoot the same type of questions right back to the ROs.

They challenged the ROs to provide the diverse applications of the Arabic word, “DaRaBa”, and recite, non-stop, the entire text of Surah Al-Baqarah, the longest surah of the Holy Quran.

Pandemonium ensued at several paper-filing offices.

A few ROs accepted the challenge.

Only a couple passed the tests.

Most regarded the impertinence as contempt of court.

But most of the candidates who wore their religiosity on their sleeves, chins, tongues and hands passed the questions-about-Islam test.

Alas, after the consequent polls, when almost angelic-seeming Muslims were elected on all seats, the legislators failed to show any improvement upon the record of previous non-angelic-Muslim legislators.

Once past the winning post, angels discarded their halos and began to look like their opposites.

By happy coincidence, shortly before the 2023 elections, the Thought-Detection Machine became available.

It was developed jointly by a remarkable partnership between three extremely upright and religious scientists.

One was a Pakistani Muslim, one an Indian Hindu and one an American Christian evangelist.

They worked together in a laboratory in the deep mid-west of the USA, the country from where so many brilliant ideas originate.

Inspired by the Lie-Detector Machine, the new invention was simple yet profoundly complex.

Returning Officers affixed sensors to the scalps of candidates who were not permitted to speak.

Neither did the ROs have to put awkward or dangerous questions.

The ROs also affixed sensors to their own heads.

Then the two sat across each other for a few minutes.

A beautiful silence pervaded the whole process of scrutiny for eligibility.

But then there were explosive results.

Some ROs could not maintain the sober, stolid look expected of impartial district judges.

The colour of their skin turned purple.

Their expressions became contorted.

Candidates did try hard to think nice thoughts about their RO.

Few succeeded. Even fewer made it into the elected forums.

And the quorum rule had to be discarded.

But by the time of the 2028 elections, candidates had created their own ways to cleverly camouflage their thoughts.

They would swallow special pills developed by three other scientists of agnostic persuasion which put a pious, reverent haze on their brain so that all their thoughts at scrutiny time looked sublime and heavenly to the ROs.

Yet once more, and now with real feeling, once elected, those very legislators who had had even their thoughts certified to be squeaky clean and religiously correct, performed far worse in five years than their predecessors.

For the 2033 polls, the Election Commission invited scientists the world over to invent the Thought-Doping-Detection machine. The exciting saga continued…

(The writer successfully passed the nomination process in 1985 and was elected to the Senate of Pakistan 1985-1991). www.javedjabbar.com

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