A sad fact of our democratic political system is that over 300 lawmakers cannot find the time or the energy to submit their asset details in the spirit of transparency. We can only assume that our esteemed lawmakers are not involved in anything more nefarious than laziness on their part; any of the 336 named found to be guilty in attempting to consciously conceal their assets or undervalue them is not fit to legislate.

The yearly practice of lawmakers submitting their asset details to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seems to fall on deaf ears each time. This year’s poor showing was much worse than that of 2015 – 336 lawmakers from the National Assembly, the Senate and the provincial assemblies were suspended on Saturday, against the 272 that were given the same treatment at this point last year. Prominent among this year’s list are the Federal Minister for Trade Khurram Dastagir (a repeat offender, mentioned on the list in the previous year as well), Saira Afzal Tarrar, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah, Sheikh Rashid and Arif Alvi.

The worst part of this exercise is that it reveals just how endemic the problem is; all major political parties have one (or more) names on this list, which is indicative of an overall failure of all politicians to be able to follow simple rules that serve as a viable check on any potential transgressions on their part. These people are responsible for formulating new laws and represent their electorates at the highest level, but how can they ask people to follow the laws they set when they cannot seem to follow any themselves? Without this important piece of information available to voters, how are they to make a qualified decision on who is fit to serve their interests?

Legislators have alleged that the law that mandates declaring their assets is by no means fair and fails to motivate ‘meaningful accountability’, but maybe they should attempt to look past this mildly cumbersome activity and obey what is law. If they feel that it is not a system that is meaningful, they have all the resources at their disposal to legislate on the matter, if enough of them can bother to show up in parliamentary sessions.

The people of Pakistan understand that their politicians seem to enjoy creature comforts a little too much already. Apart from numerous state-granted benefits such as travel allowances and numerous visits abroad, many families of politicians seem to find that their luck changes dramatically once they come into power. Lucrative contracts seem to find their way into the hands of family members, shiny new cars prop up in driveways and there is always the feeling that the national kitty is somehow slightly lighter than before. The ECP is serving the country by seeking out yearly asset reports, to ensure that the politicians keep their hands out of the cookie jar; and it is time our representatives start respecting this.