The Ghost Member

On April 1st, 2013 the Supreme Court passed an order directing the Higher Education Commission to verify degrees of legislators. In the last days of January 2015 the Election Commission of Pakistan de-notified a member of the 15th Punjab Assembly, almost two years after the end of its tenure. It took the judicial system seven years to do what a Returning Officer is expected to do in days.

Upon inquiry with regard to said notification, an ECP official is said to have asserted that it meant the member had never been elected to the Assembly. The member is consequently bound to return all privileges and salaries drawn during his now non-existent tenure. The law and ECP are however silent with regard to acts done in his capacity as an MPA. His role in assembly debates, his vote in finance bills, amendments, legislation and elections of the Chief Minister, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, President and Senate. By said de-notification the member has been rendered the status of a ghost in the Punjab Assembly from 2008-2013. While he is now considered to never have been elected, he was very much present in the Assembly for five years, as real as any other member.

Should the member’s speeches on floor of the house now be deleted from records, videos of assembly sessions edited to delete footage of the de-notified member? Should the votes be recounted in all elections held in the 15th Punjab Assembly? Proceedings of standing committees, of which he was a member, be revised? Is being a member of such august legislative houses all about perks, privileges and salaries?

Any omission to specifically invalidate all actions of the member in his capacity as an MPA, must be construed as an implied validation of these acts. So in effect an individual who was never elected as an MPA participated in the assembly proceedings and was treated as an MPA by his constituents, district administration, province and country.

It will be unfortunate if this remains an unresolved, ignored lacuna in our legal system.

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