ISLAMABAD - The electoral body said on Wednesday that the schedule for the forthcoming general polls would be announced shortly after the dissolution of the present assemblies, completing their tenure within ten days.
But no Higher Education Commission (HEC) representative has been included in this ‘cell’, an indication that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has succumbed to the pressure on the issue of fake degrees of parliamentarians.
Sources said HEC Chairman Dr Javed Leghari was not even invited to the meeting chaired by the Chief Election Commissioner Justice (r) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim at the ECP on Wednesday and attended by SBP Governor Yasin Anwar and Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik.
Other crucial issues completely ignored in the meeting included discussion on formulating a mechanism to scrutinise the politicians’ assets abroad as well as netting those electoral candidates who had repeatedly got their loans rescheduled from different banks. Apparently, the only significant decision taken was introduction of online verification of the nomination papers for general polls.
“The online verification of nomination papers and the manual scrutiny would go on simultaneously,” ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan briefed the journalists after the meeting. The general polls schedule would be made public after the dissolution of the present assemblies upon their term’s expiry within ten days, he said.
The ECP has sent the amended draft of the nomination paper to the law ministry for seeking parliament’s nod, according to the secretary. “We’ve done our job, the rest is up to the law ministry,” Khan added. He said the majority of the country wants implementation of articles 62 and 63 of the constitution for holding free, fair and transparent elections.
On the other hand, the election commission has taken notice of some of the populist measures announced by the federal as well as provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh ahead of the next general elections. The ECP believes that these measures are being taken to influence the results of upcoming general elections and it has sought expiation from the respective ministries and departments.
According to sources, the ECP has taken notice of a recent decision of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to regularise up to 100,000 government servants in the Grade 1-16. The commission has also taken notice of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) being run by the federal government and ‘Waseela Haq’ programme of the Sindh government under which Rs300,000 per head is being doled out to youth of the province.
Commenting on Wednesday’s meeting, former ECP Secretary Kanwar Dilshad said, “It’s a shame that the election commission is progressing on crucial issues at a snail’s pace. The assemblies are about to expire, the election schedule would be due shortly and the general polls are at a stone’s throw. The electoral body woke up to introduce new mechanisms a bit too late and a bit too slow. This only creates controversies and makes mockery of the ECP that has earned the notorious reputation of a useless politicised body.”
The ECP-made amendments in the nomination papers see the inclusion of relevant columns seeking tax and wealth details of candidates contesting the general elections. However, the proposed amendments could only come into effect after the parliamentary legislation, with only ten days remaining for the assemblies to complete their terms.
Last month the electoral body had devised a seemingly deficient mechanism in coordination with the SBP, FBR and Nadra to net the tax and loan defaulter politicians and keep them from contesting elections. However, the proposed mechanism lacks any details about foreign asset-holder politicians and those who had their loans rescheduled on habitual basis.
“This should have been done long ago. This exercise is useless without netting the politicians habitual of loans-rescheduling and foreign asset-holders,” Dilshad said. He also slammed the electoral body for its apparent failure to take to task the elected representatives with fake degrees.
Presently, over 200 legislators, presumably the fake degree-holders, have not had their degrees verified by the HEC. “It would be such a shame if the fake degree-holder parliamentarians are allowed to contest the general polls. This would badly expose the criminal negligence of the ECP,” he said.
Last month the commission had given a 15-day deadline to 249 unverified degree-holder parliamentarians to have their educational degrees verified from the HEC. The parliamentarians from both side of the political divide blasted the election commission for writing a letter to the lawmakers asking them to get their degrees verified and warning them of legal action in case of non-compliance.
Upon the expiry of the said deadline, the peevish ECP backtracked from its stance saying that no ‘hard and fast’ deadline was given. Later, the electoral body quietly withdrew the deadline and passed the buck on the HEC. The electoral body has been a subject of enormous criticism since then.