LAHORE: I fail to understand the relevance of knowledge about religion and a person’s eligibility to represent me and act as custodian of the taxpayers’ money, state assets, commitment to Pakistan and willingness to submit to the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution. The ECP should focus on the financial credibility, criminal record, status of nationality or permanent residency in any other country, other than where he seeks to be elected, so that the candidate can serve the people of his constituency and be available for any accountability and redress of grievances of his voters, while deciding the eligibility for submission of nomination papers. If I have to choose between a man who is devout, but has no financial integrity or commitment to Pakistan, is involved in tax evasion, indulges in perjury and prefers to locate most of his assets in other countries, compared with a person who rarely offers his prayers but has an impeccable record of integrity, I would rather stake the fate of this country in the hands of the latter. We must remember that the man who gave us Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was not at all a religious person, but was known for his credibility, financial integrity, honesty and ethical behaviours.
This country has benefited more from the services of honest men like Justice AR Cornelius, Cecil Chaudhry, etc. than from people like General Ziaul Haq, who have been instrumental in fanning sectarian and ethnic bias and are responsible for giving patronage to extremist forces, who have harmed Pakistan and its people. A person who offers his prayers does it to satisfy his own inner self and to please his Maker, but as far as holding representative public office is concerned, the way he practises his religion should not matter. What matters is his credibility and commitment to the laws and the Constitution of the country.
Malik Tariq Ali
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2013.