Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza has set out to possibly do the impossible, make all lawmakers liable to scrutiny over their assets. Thus, to ensure that the future of Pakistan is not just an amalgam of dharnas and street protests over allegations of corruption, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to randomly scrutinise annual statements of assets and liabilities submitted to it by the lawmakers.

The law has existed for almost a decade; all members of the national as well provincial assemblies are bound under Section 42A (1) of ROPA to submit a statement of assets and liabilities of their own, along with those of their spouses and dependents to the Commission each year. But that has rarely happened before so the question remains, what might be different this time?

The ECP has been receiving statements of assets and liabilities but it has never made any attempt to verify the accuracy of the information submitted. Those who do give a list of their ‘meagre’ assets, ignore the requirement of submitting statements of assets of their spouses and dependents. The Panama Leaks has been a product of utter disregard for the law and it stands to threaten the present democratic government. It is time that lawmakers extend the courtesy of transparency to the public, instead of insisting that they barely own a car and are instead seen in the latest Mercedes.

The ECP displayed its teeth when it suspended the membership of 336 members of the assemblies over their failure to submit details of their assets last week. Despite this, a majority of these members are not submitting statements of their assets and liabilities to the ECP in fear of investigations opened against them. How deep could the extent of corruption possibly be that these members would rather remain suspended and barred from their duties instead of being forthcoming?

If this audit actually falls through it could set a precedent for all elected parliamentarians to declare their assets truthfully before getting sworn into their offices. The public is sick and tired of politicians hurling accusations at each other on national television and would like to see progress beyond this mudslinging. This tendency of hiding their assets in the names of other individuals, proxy extended family and family friends must be strongly discouraged, both at home and in tax havens abroad.