IN October last year, the previous parliament (including lawmakers from the the PTI and PPP) passed the Elections Act, 2017, unanimously.

The legislators cleverly omitted columns in the nomination forms for the declaration of assets and liabilities.

There were four columns in ‘form B’: (a) assets (details of movable and immovable properties inside and outside Pakistan), (b) cost of assets, and (c) present value of property/ assets and remarks (explanation of assets). Third column related to ‘present value of property/ assets’ was deleted.

It provided a legal subterfuge to undervalue their asset. The new form/act relinquished liability to mention present market value of open plots, houses, apartments, under-construction properties, agriculture property, so on.

There was outcry that that tinkering with Elections Act would delay elections and lead to a constitutional crisis. Our chief justice saw through the ruse. Unruffled by hullabaloo, he introduced via media of declaring assets through an affidavit with one omission: no liability to mention market value of assets.

Taking advantage of the omission, the candidates have shown the value of assets as available in 2013, with no mention of the astronomical rise in value. Illustrations follow.

Imran Khan’s Banigala estate is mentioned at a gifted price of Rs11,471,000 only, which was gifted to him, and no change in price of the property was listed as compared to five years back.

There is no mention of an increase in market value of other assets also (2013 values, Rs5,050,0006 of six kanal and 16 marla land in village Mohra Noor in Bani Gala, Rs11,970,000 flat in posh Diplomatic Enclave, Rs4,200,000 243 kanal and six marla land in Bhakkar, besides inherited property of Zaman Park).

Similarly, there has been no significant change in the accumulated assets of Shahbaz Sharif and his two wives, Nusrat and Tehmina Durrani (172 kanals of land, a Toyota Land Cruiser and bank balance worth more than Rs11.4 million assets worth Rs159 million, which include properties worth Rs126 million in London, two properties on Hall Road in Murree, a kanal and nine marla land worth an unbelievable Rs34,000, as well as a bungalow which is worth only Rs27,000, and 88 kanals of land in Sheikhupura).

Zardari declared assets valuing Rs758 million which include 349 acres of agricultural land, with 7,399 acres of farmland obtained on lease. He also has interests in various business ventures Maryam declared assets worth over Rs845 million (1,506 kanals increased by 548 kanals in the last three years, besides cash gift of Rs40 million and jewellery gift of Rs1.7 million).

Could our chief justice plug loophole in non-declaration of market value of assets? After all, it is voter’s right to know true net worth of our poor candidates.

M. Sa’ad
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2018

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