OKARA: The financial condition of the candidates and wealth has started playing the most important role in the bar elections even at the district and tehsil level as only those candidates can contest the poll who can afford spending money in order to ‘buy’ votes to ensure their victory or at least give a serious challenge to any strong candidate.

The nature of electioneering has changed drastically in recent years due to the finances incurred on it by the candidates. The current style of electioneering of the bar presents a dark picture of the law practice that once symbolised sobriety and grace of the lawyers’ fraternity. The same style of the bar politics was witnessed this year in the election of the Okara District Bar Association held on Jan 8.

According to some estimates, the candidates for the slot of the president spent Rs7m each on the election campaign this year while the candidates for the secretary position spent Rs3m to Rs4m each.

Besides personal relations and caste support, the financial capacity has become the basic condition for contestants.

Payment of the utility and mobile phone bills and school fee of the children of male lawyers and giving gifts in the form of clothes to women lawyers have become a part and parcel of the campaign. Hosting sumptuous lunches and dinners for the voters by the candidates have always been there.

This year, for the first time birthday parties for voters were also introduced in the canvassing and dozens of cake-cutting ceremonies were held in the months before the election and they all were funded by the election candidates.

As if this was not enough, according to sources, 972 votes out of 1,680 district bar members were defaulters of Rs600 annual dues of the bar association and the default amount was paid by the candidates to make sure that the defaulting members vote for them. The spending on flexes, banners and stickers is also a necessary part of the campaign.

This amount of money spent on the election drive makes it almost impossible for any genuine but financially weaker members of the bar to contest election, leaving the space for only the rich ones or those having financers outside the bar. The seasoned professional lawyers can’t even think of becoming candidates in the election.

This year, DBA former president Rai Muhammad Shafi Kharal as the DBA election board chairman had strictly banned the earlier practice hosting expensive breakfasts by the candidates, which saved the hundreds of thousands of rupees but some candidates did violate the directions of the board chairman.

This correspondent talked to the senior lawyers, including DBA former presidents Chaudhry Habibur Rehman, Malik Maqbool Ahmad Shakir, Chaudhry Riazul Haq, Raza Mohyuddin and Rana Muhammad Asad Khan, who expressed their concerns at this situation. They are of the view that there should be a maximum limit on money a candidate can spend on his/her election campaign and practice of heavy spending must stop. They suggest a special general body meeting of the DBA to discuss the issue.

The Okara DBA and also Punjab Bar Council (PBC) should take notice of the way the election candidates run election campaigns and measures must be taken to keep the bar elections within financial condition of all practising lawyers. The leaders of the various groups of the DBA, including Mian Muhammad Shafique Bhandara, Akhtar Hussain Bhatti Rao Abdul Mujeeb Khan, Chaudhry Aslam Javaid, Chaudhry Asif Shahzad and Mian Muhammad Arshad Mahar advocate to take notice of situation.

In the DBA Okara election this year, Chaudhy Amjad Pervaiz won the contest for the slot of the president against Rao Abid Mushtaq.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2022

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