Article 62 and 63: You don't have to be too holy to be an MPA
They say that the world is all about numbers, and for Pakistan today, the numbers 62 and 63 are the talk of town.
Citizens of the country are watching election candidates being questioned over their eligibility on the basis of the much talked about Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
Candidates are being scrutinised regarding their utility bill payments, bank loan payments, their ideological views on Pakistan and most interestingly, their Islamic knowledge.
Regarding Islam, returning officers performing the scrutiny of nomination papers have a set of interesting questions which they pose to the candidates. Some are being asked to recite different (and commonly known) verses of the Holy Quran while others are being tested on the rakaats of prayers. And it is this Islamic quiz that is in the firing range of many people.
The three important criteria related to Islam, as laid down in article 62, are that a member of parliament must:
1. Be of good character and is not commonly known to violate Islamic injunctions;
2. Be sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen (trustworthy);
3. Have adequate knowledge of teachings, practices, and obligatory duties prescribed by Islam. He should also abstain from major sins.
Many politicians and members of the civil society are of the view that the above clauses are extremely vague and they should not be present in the constitution. Sadly, their voice was absent during the past five years and now, whether they like it or not, these points are a part of the constitution and cannot be escaped.
For the first point, there are many people who argue that “good character” cannot be defined and thus, cannot be judged. However, when the same people are asked about how they raise their children with “good character”, they suddenly come up with a long list of qualities pertaining to 'good character'. Surprisingly, they also have a set of rules and regulations that they use to evaluate the “good character” of their children.
The second point related to being righteous and honest is also being criticised on the basis of being too strict. Many people believe that if this criteria is properly applied, no candidate will be deemed fit to participate in the elections. These people should ask themselves whether disqualification of many politicians from the old lot, who are considered to be corrupt by masses, is a problem or a solution in itself. It would actually create an opportunity for the young blood of the country to be pumped into the Parliament.
But fortunately or unfortunately, the Election Commission of Pakistan has not come up with any formula or questions to judge candidates regarding the above two points.
This leaves us with the third point related to Islamic knowledge, performing rituals and abstaining from sins. First of all, it must be clear that this is for Muslim candidates only.
Next, the way in which returning officers of the Election Commission are evaluating these criteria is a joke in itself. Instead of the candidates being asked whether they actually perform obligatory duties and refrain from major sins, they are being questioned on things which a fifth grader would know.
The Election Commission is playing it very easy here, and as a result, highly controversial figures, who have no link with religion, will get a clean chit just on the basis that they have memorised the second Kalimah.
Thus, the good news for candidates and the opponents of these clauses is that there is no need to worry about anything. We will not actually witness anyone being disqualified in the name of Islam.
Read more by Ovais here.
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