Symbolic accountability: Suspended lawmakers still too ‘shy’ to declare their assets

Published: November 28, 2011
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10 MNAs attended national assembly session despite ban.

10 MNAs attended national assembly session despite ban.

ISLAMABAD: Insensitive to public demand and in violation of election laws, 25 elected provincial and national legislators have still not submitted details of their assets to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), even after their membership was suspended.

The ECP had suspended the membership of 222 lawmakers for failing to submit details of their assets on October 21, and issued a notification suspending their membership till the submission of statements of accounts. According to documents available with The Express Tribune, 10 MNAs, nine members of the Punjab assembly, two members of the Sindh assembly, three members of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assembly and one member of the Balochistan assembly have not been reinstated.

MNAs who have not submitted details of their assets and liabilities include the JUI-F’s Maulana Attaur Rehman, PML-N’s Capt. (retd) Muhammad Safdar and Javed Latif, Muhammad Kamran Khan and Syed Akhunzada Chittan, Saeed Ahmed Zafar, Mehmood Hayat alias Tochi Khan, and Muhammad Mohsin Qureshi from the PPP, as well as Zafar Beg Bhittani and Muhammad Mehboob Sultan of the PML-Q. Members of the lower house of parliament had attended the 36th session, which ended on November 25, while they were suspended.

In 2002, through the insertion of section 42-A in the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1976 and clause 25-A in the Senate Election Act, 1975, it was made mandatory for every member of the provincial and national legislature to file details of assets owned by him and his dependents by September 30, every year. The commission is bound under this law to notify the names of legislators who do not submit statements of accounts by October 15, and bar them from taking part in the proceedings of their respective houses.

The logic behind the amendment in RPA was to give constituents an opportunity to contest the details given by candidates ahead of the elections, an ECP official who asked not to be identified told The Express Tribune.

Responding to a question, he said there was not a single instance when assets and liabilities filed by a candidate were challenged since the law was introduced in 2002. “The law is practically worthless except for its symbolic value and requires amendments.” The official revealed that the ECP was working in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) and auditor general Pakistan revenues (AGPR) to countercheck assets declared by lawmakers. He said the ECP can only verify assets if requested with the assistance of FBR and AGPR.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2011.

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