With the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announcing to ensure implementation of Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution in order to filter out those politicians who have been evading taxes, getting loans waived, and holding fake degrees, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has initiated back channel negotiations with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to shoot down any such move.
A source in the ruling PPP told Pakistan Today that the PML-N had used back channels to convey to the PPP leadership its concerns over the ECP’s proactive approach on implementing Articles 62 and 63, thereby closing the parliament’s doors on top leaders of both the PPP and PML-N. “Surprisingly, the all-time hawk, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has conveyed to us that both the parties should discuss a joint strategy to counter the ECP’s moves,” he added.
Another source in the PPP confirmed that top PPP leaders were also thinking on the same lines. “We know that something is cooking up somewhere with a plan to blocking doors on our top leaders,” he added.
The PPP leader said that if a joint strategy was not evolved, there was a strong possibility that several PPP leaders, including Khurshid Shah, would become a victim of Articles 62 and 63 due to the fake degree case. “There are some others in the PML-N who would also be a victim of Articles 62 and 63,” he added.
He said there were strong chances that over 200 top politicians, including Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, would become victims of the said articles due to cases of bank default and loan write-offs. He said that the ECP’s move to tighten the noose around politicians by implementing Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution in true letter and spirit had annoyed parliamentarians belonging to both the government and the opposition.
According to the source, the ECP seems adamant in implementing Articles 62 and 63, which would mainly harm the two major political parties – the PPP and the PML-N – as more than 70 percent of parliamentarians have not yet submitted their income tax returns.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) have already assured the ECP of their help in identifying tax evaders, loan and utility bill defaulters and beneficiaries of loan write-offs, setting the stage for meaningful scrutiny of declarations of assets to be submitted by candidates.
In this regard, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Fakharuddin G Ebrahim also held detailed meetings with SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar, FBR chief Ali Arshad Hakeem and officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to filter out the tainted politicians. According to the decision, NAB would provide the ECP with the list of convicted politicians while the SBP would give the details of the defaulters on bank loans, and the FBR and NADRA would furnish the details about tax evaders.
However, the move has exposed the evil nexus between the two parties, as the two apparent rivals have resumed contacts to undermine the radical measures being taken with an attempt to cleanse the system of the corrupt.
Law Minister Farooq Naek, while speaking in the Senate a few days ago, had also warned the ECP that it should remain within its parameters and not exceed its powers.
Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the one-time supporter of the ECP, said that he would never submit his degrees to the ECP even if he was disqualified, reflecting that both the parties had joined hands to counter the move, the source said.
The source said that the stern reaction by the government and the opposition was the first real test whether or not the ECP had the power and the will to carry out a transparent and fair exercise to cleanse the system of rotten eggs. However, the CEC’s phone to Chaudhry Nisar regarding clarification of the ECP’s position gives the impression that the commission backtracked from its real stance and its neutrality.
A parliamentary committee led by PPP leader Jehangir Badr might approach President Asif Ali Zardari in this regard, the source said. Apart from this, the PPP-led coalition and its rival PML-N are firm on their demand of allowing a 14-day scrutiny period, instead of the 30-day period sought by the ECP.