Default position? Dishonesty

Published: June 13, 2018

When in doubt — lie. Or even when not in doubt then at the very least be economical with the truth and if that fails well lie anyway. The very thing that the members of the outgoing government had tried to prevent is now hoisting any number of aspirant MNAs and MPAs with their own petards. The outgoing members tried to prevent a range of pieces of personal information coming into the public domain, and altered the nomination papers for candidacy to do just that. Rats were duly smelled and the nomination papers now have to be accompanied by affidavits that, if found to be deceptive, can attract penalties.

The scrutiny of the applications is no small task, with the number of potential candidates standing at around 20,000 and the process due to be completed by June 19th. Already, anomalies have been found in the credentials of dozens of candidates and the number can only rise. Many candidates are showing loan and tax defaults — which ought to automatically disbar their candidacy. Others have reportedly failed to declare criminal convictions.

The electoral stables are never going to be completely squeaky-clean and there will always be crooked politicians, but the state has a duty to protect the electorate from the predatory and the exploitative, the deceivers who find their way to elected positions. It is entirely correct that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is pursuing the job of scrutiny with due diligence, and if that causes pain among some of those hoping for votes then so be it and so much the better. The only way to do this is the hard way, and to those complaining that the ECP took a softer line in 2013 well it is time to wake up and smell the coffee. That was then and this is now and much has changed, not least the public desire for transparency and an increased inclination by state bodies to provide just that. Lies and deception are default political positions (and not just in Pakistan it has to be said) and rigorous oversight essential. We support the ECP. Crack that whip regardless.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2018.

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