Is Mumlakat-e-Status Quo headed for a new farce?

A friend was willing to wager once the baasat-taraysat circus started — apparently in earnest — that not only nothing would come of it but come the day of swearing-in and you’ll start to have a déjà vu feeling about who has made the final cut at the lower house of Pakistan’s bicameral legislature.

On the strength of available evidence at this point in time, it would be difficult to argue with that — unless an unheralded tsunami wave crashes into the shores of Mumlakat-e-Status Quo — although understandably, it’s a long shot even if the Kaptaan keeps reminding us the situation is reminiscent of the 1992 World Cup campaign where few punters had the heart to back the “Cornered Tigers” but were made to eat their words.

As someone who has long watched games the establishment plays — unsporting, out and out — one was taken aback by the ferocity with which the scrutiny carpet was rolled out. In hindsight, the carpet had deep holes covered with a thin thread barely visible to the naked eye. The Returning Officers gave the impression they were here to “return” the candidates — back home, that is.

We don’t know for sure if the baasat-taraysat-driven drama that defined the scrutiny process was indeed scripted by someone with a cheek. Assuming it was floated to check the national pulse, probably the wrong horse was chosen for target-shooting.

In time, we’ll come to appreciate why it was absurd to lay down Ayaz Amir and for what! Basically, if all of it was indeed scripted, it had weak content and even more flimsy translation, literally!

If the idea was to nix the tried and tested with Returning Officers having a field day in the absence of a mechanism that filtered out individual interpretation of morality to determine a candidate’s eligibility, it was a poor indulgence since it lacked intelligence.

The storm that unleashed following the initial rejection of Ayaz Amir’s papers for an article deemed offensive to Pakistan’s ideology and violative of Islamic injunctions ensured — unwittingly or otherwise — that the roving eye was focused on a very subjective matter that, in practical terms, has very little to do with the merits of a delivering legislator.

Whether it was scripted or not, the damage it did was to take the people’s attention away from what should have been the driving force of the scrutiny process — financial accountability.

In a country where you have any number of interpreters and interpretations of both Islam and what constitutes the ideology of Pakistan — and no dearth of terminators who set upon anyone who dares to differ with their version(s) — it is a needless exercise to set store by.

Short of someone openly propagating against these two articles of the constitution and inciting violence thereof — you’d probably have to be insane to do that — these, in my humble view, should never be the basis of judging a candidate.

Reams of column inches and electronic media space have been used in the past week over the use of baasat-taraysat and its near-impossible implementation thanks to ambiguity riding certain clauses. Almost everyone who has apprehensions over the way it has been used by the Returning Officers has lamented why the parties in parliament did not have the sagacity to have either amended or even altogether scrapped them.

I have no argument over this but realistically speaking, I think even proposing such a measure was fraught with some consequences for the PPP-led coalition. The fact of the matter is that there is huge mistrust between the PPP and PML-N. Even though the PPP would most likely have scrapped it in a jiffy if they could find the support for it, the PML-N has only now wizened to its abuse after the Ayaz Amir shocker.

If the PPP had dared such an ‘adventure’, the self-appointed guardians of faith, their apostles in the media and judiciary would have given the PML-N the perfect opportunity to drive the PPP up the wall and stamp its own guardianship of the constitution for political mileage.

Now that both parties have been at the receiving end of a scare before the tables were eventually turned, they would hopefully shop at the amendment store — made relatively easier if, as widely predicted, the PML-N forms the next government.

However, this still does not cover the scrutiny process in glory. The election tribunals may have set aside the whimsical baasat-taraysat-driven verdicts returned by the Returning Officers but the Election Commission, Returning Officers and election tribunals cannot absolve themselves of the spectacular failure to use the microscope on the financial propriety of the candidates.

To my mind, if this course is not altered by some magic wand now — that being the state of this godforsaken country — it will be this farce that may eventually determine the outcome of the elections unless a tsunami wave becomes the face of retribution.

The list of candidates who have escaped the net on account of their (de)filed tax returns (the tax-to-income figures are the stuff of Ripley’s Believe it or not! in most cases) as well as those who haven’t put a hand in the pocket/purse to look for even spare change is arresting, even if the offenders have not been.

What can you really say about a system which is trigger-happy to ground — ostensibly, over a suspect degree and twice at that — the likes of Jamshed Dasti who is fair game because he doesn’t belong to the Club of Feudal Lords and Industrialists, but easy, like a mistress, on those who do even if they cheat the nation of its wealth all their neta lives.

The writer is Editor Pique Magazine based in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]


  1. Fair game, Kamran Sahib, to scrutinise candidates on the touchstone of basat-thrysat, but it should be used to test a candiadate's character and consistence to fairlplay, and not changing loyalties from one party to another in midstream, as elections come close, Jonaid Iqbal

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