THE manner in which the exercise of screening election candidates is being conducted cannot even be termed as childish. It is far worse. What is on display here is dripping with malice. At the same time, it speaks volumes for the current propensity to ridicule the most serious of matters. In making fun of the aspirants for the May 11 election, the returning officers are taking on a mischief-making role whose origins have time and again been traced in history, quite often and logically, to Gen Ziaul Haq’s experiment in purity. But it is not impossible to locate the precursor of the current wave in the recent past. The exhibition emanates from the trend set by those who thrived on embarrassing, in fact humiliating, the politicians and other more vulnerable front men of the system. In one manifestation of this, the modern equi-valent of the dog taking on the bear became prime-time fare on the channels.
This trend emerged to plug the increasing gaps between popular demand and supply by the government and it has spread. Not even the orders of the honourable courts sufficed; the courts were allowed to act as a source of news in which the accused were not simply tried — they were grilled in the journalistic parlance. What is happening in the name of scrutiny of the poll candidates in the offices of the Election Commission of Pakistan these days is a spill-over that threatens to wash away some basic principles of common sense.
The Mirpurkhas can-didate who was asked about the number of his wives got off lightly. The question was as irrelevant as the reported observation on a woman candidate — that her family’s home life would be in a shambles if she was elected. However, on Thursday respected politician-columnist Ayaz Amir’s case brought out the true repercussions of the current application of the law. Mr Amir’s nomination papers for a seat in Chakwal were rejected over a portion of one of his columns. All this has been happening without any apparent instiga-tion on the part of rival candidates — as if even that could justify these instances. The officials are aided by Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. The articles have been a source of controversy on their own. In combination with overeager officials who have notions about themselves as reformers, they have generated a trend that is far too dangerous to have any entertainment value.