Islamabad - The existing laws relating to MPs assets declarations do not have any binding on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to display them on its website in the interest of greater transparency until new legislation is done.

Interestingly, there is no judgment either from any high court or the Supreme Court that had any binding on the ECP to post such important information for the public or display the MPs declarations in any manner.

“There is no judgment that could bind the ECP to do so, thus the only remedy is new legislation if the parliament deems it essential,” sources in the Commission told The Nation on Thursday. 

As per the existing laws, the Election Commission calls for submission of statements of assets and liabilities of the sitting MPs, their spouses and dependents each year within the month of September with varied timetable for MNAs, senators and MPAs, and it has to notify these through official gazette within a period of one month and that is October every year.

This is a mandatory requirement under Section 42-A of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 and Section 25-A of the Senate (Election) Act, 1975, which says, “The statements of assets and liabilities submitted under sub-section (1) shall be published in the official gazette and copies thereof may be obtained on payment of prescribed fee.

The Commission shall, by the fifteenth day of October each year, notify the names of the members who fail to file statements of assets and liabilities within the period specified in sub-section (1) and by an order, direct that such member shall cease to function till such statement is submitted.

Where a member submits the statement of assets and liabilities under sub-section (1) which is found to be false in material particulars, he may be proceeded against under section 82 for committing the offence of corrupt practice.”

So, there is no mention whatsoever that ECP should post such important information of public interest on its website except publishing it in the official gazette and copies thereof may be obtained on payment of prescribed fee.

The issue gained greater significance amidst the Panama leaks scandal and after the ECP last month removed the information and later asked the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms to legislate if it deemed essential to post such information on ECP website.

On the other hand, ministers and MPs belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz when asked maintained that the ECP was an autonomous body and worked freely.   

The question, however, remains as to what had promoted the ECP to put MPs declarations on its website which was accordingly downloaded by many people and had the copies it. Some members of the parliament from treasury and opposition benches argued this is about time that parliamentary committee on electoral reforms should look into the issue and rectify it by proposing a new legislation.

“It’s like beating a dead horse,” said an MNA from the ruling party while requesting anonymity, adding if the opposition parties wanted it they should make their recommendations to the parliamentary panel on the electoral reforms.