On Forgotten Articles 62 & 63 (Editorial June 2016)

JWT editorial

It seems that moral turpitude and iniquity have permeated the Pakistani political culture. Disregard to values and heedlessness to standards of morality have become so deeply entrenched that even our legislators flagrantly tell lies and keep on befooling the nation with their gimmicks. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that our political class has become an epitome of the famous proverb “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” The recent issue of Panama Leaks and investigations into allegations thereupon further sheds light on this fact. In the aftermath of this scandal, an environment of allegations and counter-allegations has, apparently, been deliberately created by our political players and the only purpose this manoeuvre behind seems to distract people’s attention from the core issue that is corruption and misuse of power and authority.

When the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the names of many Pakistanis, especially the progeny of the incumbent prime minister and some other political bigwigs, having connections with offshore companies, it was taken as a golden opportunity to start the process of ruthless, across-the-board accountability in the country. But, these dreams have shattered as no solid steps have yet been taken to launch a probe into the matter. Instead, everyone is playing pass the parcel as we have been ensnared by the game of TORs and inquiry commissions. Although more than two months have elapsed yet our politicians are still bickering over the issue of how and who should conduct the inquiry. However, during all these weeks, what has been solely lacking in the national discourse on media is the question: Do our legislators rightfully deserve to occupy the slots they are presently on?

During PTI’s dharna episode, we saw parliamentarians hurling serious allegations on opponents and that too from the floor of the parliament, which they profess to be a sacred institution. But, no investigation agency, no accountability institution dared to probe those accusations. So, we, the people of Pakistan, have every right to ask the question: does this lot of parliamentarians fulfil the criteria laid down by the Constitution of Pakistan for their qualification? Perhaps, not. The Constitution through its Article 62 (1)(f) obligates that a person cannot be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless “he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen …” but isn’t it true that most of our politicians blatantly tell lie and are involved in corrupt practices of all sorts? Do Articles 62 and 63 only mean that a person should have memorized six kalimahs, or some religious prayers, or basic knowledge of Islam? How ironic is the fact that at the time of filing the nomination papers, only such questions are asked from the prospective candidates who would be making laws and policies for the Islamic Republic that is mired in chronic, myriad challenges. In sheer violation of the Constitution, loan defaulters, criminals, money-launderers, extortionists and land-grabbers are allowed to contest elections, only because they successfully answer some trivial questions of the returning officers. More surprisingly, people also vote for them; completely ignoring the fact that, once elected, they will only be pursuing their own interests, not of the voters. All this must change now. The doors of Parliament should be shut on such rouge and corrupt elements, forever.

Here the role of Election Commission of Pakistan gets even more important. The Commission should ensure that after thorough scrutiny of nomination papers, only those people should be allowed to vie for a seat in the Senate, the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures who completely fulfil the abovementioned constitutional requirements. The recently-passed Twenty-Second Amendment Bill, which brings monumental changes in governance structure of the ECP, would fall flat unless the Commission is given complete autonomy.

The present state of affairs also highlights the importance of the role of the Supreme Court of Pakistan as guardian of the Constitution. The SC should ensure the true implementation of all the Articles of the Constitution of Pakistan.

No nation can rise to the heights of glory unless it follows its constitution in letter and spirit and where the principle of ‘Equality before Law’ reigns supreme. The time has come to ensure the rule of law in Pakistan as well. We are passing through at a critical stage where we are faced with daunting internal and external challenges. And, the only way to tackle these goes through parliament where only sagacious and visionary people should be making the decisions that would set the future course for the country. Time to take action is now; otherwise, our miseries and woes will, God forbid, never end.

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