Flawed scrutiny

THE second phase of the electoral process has ended with completion of the scrutiny of nomination papers of the candidates for National and Provincial Assemblies’ constituencies. Most of the candidates have been cleared but strangely enough nomination papers of some of the heavy weights were rejected, some on understandable reasons and others on apparently whimsical grounds, transmitting an impression that the process was not even-handed and it depends on many factors including IQ of the Returning Officer in determining the fate of a candidate.
The declaration that the candidates were required to file along with nomination papers as per instructions of the Supreme Court has led to public discourse on the properties and wealth that different candidates have declared. National media has given details of what important and influential personalities and politicians own within the country and abroad and the ensuing debate on apparent income and assets of these candidates would help electorate form a better and informed opinion while exercising their right of vote. There might be some candidates who concealed their wealth and properties while others might not have declared in the past what they declared at the time of filing of nomination papers for general election 2018 and the resultant inconsistencies could weigh much on their political future. However, rejection of nomination papers by Returning Officer of NA-53 Islamabad raises questions about quality, rationale and language of the declaration form hurriedly drafted by the Election Commission of Pakistan and given a stamp of approval by the Supreme Court. The Clause-N that has axed the candidature of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former Governor KP Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan and Ayesha Gulali is utterly vague and the candidates did not wrong if they failed to fill the column. This is because the clause apparently requires what the candidate did for the constituency concerned as an elected representative from that constituency. This clearly means that the information is required only from those who were previously elected as Member of the National or Provincial Assembly from the same constituency. Those contesting from the constituency for the first time are not supposed to have done something or anything for the constituency. In the first place, the very logic of including this clause is questionable but even if it was included the ROs should have the interpreted it in right perspective. The rejection might be overturned by tribunal if candidates chose to go into appeal but this is sheer wastage of time, energy and resources besides mental agony to candidates.

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