The Election Commission of Pakistan has carried out a number of changes in the form candidates have to fill. This has been done in preparation for the next election, and will also help meet the national demand for a better class of candidate (someone who is not mired in corrupt practices), or at least greater transparency in applications for candidature. This was decided at a meeting of the ECP on Tuesday. It was disclosed by an ECP official late that separate columns would be given, in which intending candidates would include details of their utility bills, of their taxes and assets, and of their foreign trips. It should be noted that one of the most shocking recent discoveries about the present assemblies was that the majority of members did not even file a tax return. The other details are roughly the same as those which the FBR used, based on information it received from NADRA, to identify a huge number of those who lived a lavish lifestyle, replete with vast utility bills and trips abroad.

The underlying philosophy is that the law and Constitution must be followed. While candidates depend on local factors, usually biradari links, for a vote base, they also depend on the party ticket, for the party loyalist vote. If they are elected, and their party achieves power, this position enables them to avoid filing returns, paying taxes, or doing anything that a modern state demands of its citizens. Parties will also find the forms useful in awarding tickets, and they will have an interest in nominating only those persons who will not be disqualified. To ensure that this information is useful, it will be counterchecked by the country’s monetary bodies, like the State Bank and the FBR, which would also pursue any cases of tax evasion that might emerge.

It is worth noting that the ECP and other state institutions will play an active role in the process, without which it cannot be a success. Under the present electoral system, it is expected that rival candidates will point out how other candidates are violating the law. However, as the present exercise shows, there are a lot of points of compliance with the law where the state is better positioned to detect violations. All that is being done is that the ECP is operationalising existing law.