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‘Islamabad Long March Declaration’

January 23, 2013

AT long last the nation has heaved a sigh of relief that the ‘Declaration’ has been signed. This will particularly relieve the several thousand women and their small children who had been bravely facing the inclement weather of Islamabad, as if they were under the influence of some cult. It seems that their plight, besides other factors, was responsible for the capitulation of the government into signing this accord which seems deficient in certain respects.

The first one relates to extending the time for fresh elections to 90 days.

The second one relates to almost veto powers given to the Pakistan Awami Tehrik of Dr Tahirul Qadri in the matter of selecting two ‘honest and impartial persons for appointment as caretaker prime minister’.

I feel these are not in consonance with the Constitution. However, not being an expert, I leave it to the eminent lawyers named in the ‘Declaration’ to confirm that these two provisions do not militate against the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

The third one relates to the pre-clearance by the Election Commission of Pakistan of the candidates under Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution and the Supreme Court judgment of June 8, 2012.

While this is a welcome addition to the ‘Declaration’ as far as it goes, this seems to place a tall order on the ECP for compliance within 30 days, granted that the chairman would remain fully fit. Assuming that for each of the National Assembly seats, there will be on an average at least five candidates, it would need verification of credentials of at least 1,660 people, besides checking of their ‘assets’ as ordered by the Supreme Court. What mechanism will the ECP adopt to do a neat unchallenged job of it within 30 days remains uncertain.

Besides any procedure that the ECP might adopt, here is a humble suggestion, unless it is already covered elsewhere. The nomination paper may include the following affirmation or words to that effect by all candidates:

“I hereby solemnly affirm and declare as under: that I am fully aware of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; that I am not disqualified under any provision of the said Articles; and that if at any time it is discovered that I am not so qualified, I shall cease to be a member of the Majlis-i-Shoora parliament), besides any other action that may be taken against me under the law.”

The advantage of the above affirmation is that if someone escapes the scrutiny within the limited time available to the ECP he can be taken to task at any time later on.

S. M. ANWAR Karachi