“No sir, i do not have any evidence“….
These were the shocking words of the applicant; one Mr. Asif Ezdi who had filed a reference against 35 Members of the Punjab Assembly, including myself, seeking disqualification on grounds of dual nationality. The insightful statement was made in response to the Commission’s (The Election Commission of Pakistan, headed by CEC Fakhr ud Din G. Ibrahim hearing the reference) question;
“Mr. Ezdi, do you have any evidence to support these allegations?“
His response not only shocked the Commission but also us; the respondents.
A person filed a reference against me seeking my disqualification alleging that I have a dual nationality which by implication alleges that I am a fraud, gave a false affidavit and lied on oath. And what were the grounds of such serious allegations? A divine dream? A reliable piece of documentary evidence? No! It was a story published in one of the local newspapers.
The applicant read the story and thought hey! why don’t I file a reference against these individuals, why bother trying to ascertain the facts or even do a basic back ground check like for instance if this member ever applied for any nationality, or has he even ever stayed in any country long enough to acquire nationality or does his wife or any of his parents have dual or foreign nationality.
What motivated the applicant to make such serious allegations and take such a drastic step so casually? For the purposes of this particular piece I choose to ignore the conspiracy theory of a well planned campaign to malign politicians, I may write in length about that some other day.
Today I would focus on one other reason that made the applicant file a reference without giving it a second thought – it is the fact that this particular reference was against politicians and the allegations therein were targeted at people who are the easiest targets of accusations for any and all crimes under the sun.
We do not need courts to inquire into our guilt or pass a verdict regarding our innocence, no Sir! for us the rule is reversed; we are presumed guilty until proven innocent. Once our name appears in a ticker on your TV screens, it is already too late for us; for even if a court of law acquits us of all charges there will still be a majority who believe that it was our political clout that helped us twist the law and courts in our favor. The generalization of all politicians as inept, evil and corrupt seems unfair.
Admittedly politicians have been involved in colossal scandals that were not far from truth. There have been politicians who broke laws, violated the constitution and desecrated their oaths but why are they alone deemed to represent this institution?
In the fake degrees scandal initially 10 percent of the total Members of Senate, National and Provincial Assemblies were suspects whereas proven offenders turned out to be even less. Similar are the stats for dual nationality scandal. Last year Election Commission suspended membership of 154 members for not submitting their assets declaration forms in time which means there were more than 900 members who did it in time and do it every year in accordance with law. If counted, the number of politicians that were involved or alleged to have been involved in corrupt practices in the past five years, would fall short of even 1/4th of the total members.
Why is it then that a minority is taken as representative of an entire body? It seems as absurd as calling Islam a religion of terrorism because of a small extremist minority.
I have been a Member of the Punjab Assembly for past five years, have met and interacted with almost all fellow members and I can confidently assert that a majority of these honorable Members are patriots, persons of integrity and people who want and wish the best for Pakistan. The perception regarding politicians may seem just if you consider what this country has suffered at the hands of some ‘bad’ politicians, but then should that be a reason to create an environment that prevents any and all ‘good’ politicians from ever entering the field?
It is sad how most of the times when I was introduced in educated crowds as an MPA, I could feel the negative impressions being formed before I even said something, and the ‘oh..he’s one of those’ looks.
I do not believe that politicians are bad, instead there are bad people in politics and in my opinion they are fewer than the good ones. We must learn to identify them and focus our disappointment and contempt on them instead of going for across the board criticism and ridicule.