The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is planning to implement a stringent scrutiny process for nomination papers in a bid to screen out all prospective candidates involved in corrupt practices in any form, The Express Tribune has learnt.
According to sources, the commission, in its bill pending with the Senate Standing Committee on Election Reforms, has proposed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the National Accountability Bureau collaborate with it in the scrutiny process to weed out loan defaulters, tax evaders and those with bogus educational qualifications.
“The plan can only work if ECP is given at least a month to scrutinise nomination papers,” a senior official told The Express Tribune. He added that any decision in this regard could only be taken by the special committee. Currently, the commission has five to six days to complete the process.
According to ECP’s proposal, district returning officers (DRO) will be equipped with a state-of-the-art system enabling them to get any information from SBP, FBR and NAB. The DROs will also be empowered to request assistance from any of the three institutions in a stipulated period of time.
The issue of bogus degrees still persists as over two dozen cases have been filed against legislators for submitting fake or invalid educational qualifications alongside their nomination papers for the 2008 general elections.
According to an ECP official, 26 cases are still pending before sessions courts, while only two cases have been decided so far.
On January 31, a letter was sent to provincial election commissioners directing them to file applications before their respective province’s sessions courts for the early disposal of cases pending before them.
Much earlier, in June 2010, the Supreme Court had directed sessions judges to conclude the bogus degree cases within three months while deciding the case of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPA Rizwan Gill.
While a number of legislators, accused of submitting bogus degrees with their nomination papers, resigned from their respective assemblies prior to court judgments against theme, under the law, they still committed an offence.
Responding to a question, the ECP official said that the election criteria no longer demanded candidates have a graduate degree. However, those found guilty of submitting bogus educational certificates will not be able to contest elections, he added.
Meanwhile, the educational certificates of over 200 legislators are still lying with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for verification. And while the legislators have turned in their university degrees for verification, they have yet to submit their matriculation and intermediate degrees.
After receiving a fresh request from the HEC, the commission has once again asked the chairman of the Senate and the speakers of the lower house of parliament and provincial assemblies to ask their house’s respective members to submit their documents.
The ECP is already contemplating changes in the nomination forms for candidates in order to ensure the qualification and disqualification clauses of the Constitution are implemented.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2013.
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