Rights to all... By Yaseen
19 February, 2013
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in January 2013, approved a draft of electoral reforms for effective legislation to curb rigging in the upcoming general elections and to ensure the transparency and credibility of the polls. The ECP at its meeting approved the enhancement of monetary penalty for illegal and corrupt practices along with enhancing the nomination fee for the candidates of the National and provincial Assemblies. This news report appeared in all sections of the media on January 23, 2013. In this draft of reforms, the ECP increased the nomination fee for the candidates of the National and provincial Assemblies from Rs 4,000 to 50,000 and from 2,000 to 25,000 respectively.
According to the Representation of the People Act 1976, it is the fundamental right of every citizen to have equal opportunity in all spheres of life, including participation in the election process as a candidate. Therefore, it is imperative to further amend the Representation of the People Act 1976 to make the election process easy and accessible for each and every citizen of Pakistan in accordance with the guarantees provided by the constitution.
The founders of Pakistan had envisioned a just and egalitarian society but, unfortunately, the current election process, which has become a game of millions of rupees, has been depriving a vast majority of people from their fundamental right of 'equal opportunity' as guaranteed by the constitution. This is not only in contravention of the constitution of Pakistan but is also corrupting the whole system. The elections have become the privilege of the elite class of the country and no ordinary person can even dare to think of contesting the National or provincial Assembly elections due to the heavy cost involved in the process. Hence, the present Assemblies of Pakistan are a club of the elite classes and cannot be called the true representatives of the people. The situation is pushing us towards a class conflict because, in this vertical division of society, some are those who have all the privilege to rule and there are others who have been born to be ruled.
This is not only creating frustration and anger among the deprived classes but also distrust between the rulers and the ruled, thus causing serious damage to the interests of Pakistan. The alienation between rulers and the ruled can lead to a bloody revolution in the country while on the other hand, the use of large amounts of money in the elections has dragged the whole system towards corruption. There is a general perception in the public that those who become members of these Assemblies, after incurring heavy expenses in election campaigns, ultimately make plans to recover these.
That is why they get involved in a vicious circle of money making. This approach is ruining the very foundations of Pakistan. Pakistan is a developing country and the income of people is not high enough for them to pay such huge amounts to contest the elections. These reforms are only enabling the elite classes of the state to contest the elections, snatching the right of the common man to do the same. It is my humble request to the Chief Election Commissioner, human rights organisations, senior lawyers and all those who want a real change in Pakistan to please come forward for the rights of the common citizens of Pakistan.
YASEEN AYAZ SHAHANI