Lax laws governing the declaration of assets by legislators have evidently turned the practice into a jest. While some senators did declare realistic values of their assets, others showed either complete incomprehension or alarming apathy by jotting down nonsensical answers such as “limitless” or “not applicable” in the annual declaration of assets’ forms for the fiscal year 2010-2011, released by the Election Commission.
Taking advantage of the absence of any mechanism to scrutinise these declarations, senators, who decided to disclose any at all, grossly undervalued their assets.
Perhaps the most puzzling response comes from PML-N’s chief spokesperson Pervez Rasheed who crossed out all columns and wrote “non-applicable,” without stating any reasons.
In one column at the end of the form, Rasheed mentions that he has Rs124,000 cash, without specifying if it is in-hand or in a bank account.
Senator with ‘unlimited’ wealth
A senator from Fata, Rashid Ahmed Khan declared his fixed assets’ worth to be “unlimited.” He mentions owning coal and soap stone mines and agricultural land, but listed their cost and present value as having no limit. Under the remarks column, he writes: “it has no limit.”
He also mentions transferring current assets worth Rs500,000; to whom or the nature of the assets was not specified.
The federal interior minister wrote “no change since last declaration” in the three pages of the form provided by the commission. The form has columns to list the actual cost of assets, their present market value, and another column seeking an explanation for the appreciation or depreciation of the same.
Senate Chairman Nayyer Bukhari scribbled under the value of his immovable property “as previous declared in 2010 (sic).”
According to the details he provided of his immovable assets, Bukhari owns a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice worth 0.5 million, 35 tolas of jewellery, Rs1.4 million in two cash accounts and articles of personal use worth around Rs0.25 million.
PML-Q’s president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain declared the value of his 50% share in two residential properties located in posh neighbourhoods of Islamabad and Lahore to be worth just Rs5.2 and Rs3.4 million, respectively. He did not mention their current value.
The value of his agricultural holdings is also quite prudently stated. One stretch of 78 acres of agricultural land is worth just Rs3.76 million while another 12.5 acres of land is worth Rs4.5 million. Both properties are worth exactly what they were at the time of purchase, according to him.
He holds shares in stock markets worth Rs10.4 million and has Rs53.9 million cash-in-hand. However, he does not own a car, suggests his financial declaration.
While most lawmakers made a mockery of the exercise, some senators did provide reasonable details of their wealth.
Senator Tariq Azam, who retired this month after completing his six-year tenure, has mentioned the cost and present value of his assets both in Pakistan and abroad.
Similarly, PPP’s Abdul Hafiz Sheikh and Babar Awan, PML-N’s Ishaq Dar, MQM’s former senator Ahmed Ali are among those who have provided adequate details of assets owned by them and their dependents.
Senator Gulzar Ahmad Khan and his two sons Waqar Ahmad Khan and Ammar Ahmad Khan top the list of indebted lawmakers. Their collective debt amounts to Rs3.13 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.