The Lahore High Court has ordered the Returning Officers not to ask bizarre questions from the candidates during the scrutiny. The court questioned why they were asking candidates to recite Dua-i-Qanoot or to reveal the number of their wives when such queries were out of context. With that the court allowed the ROs to restrict their queries only to Article 62 and 63. The TV cameras zeroed in on the flushed faces of the candidates when assailed with such questions, scenes that were quite tragicomic; one of the candidates stared open-mouthed at the RO when asked to explain how he was able to do ‘justice’ to his two wives. The electronic media, however, has been stopped from covering the interviews since according to the LHC’s view, it impinges on judiciary’s dignity. The decision to include a blank space in the ballot paper also has been rightly deferred.
The ROs should know that farcical questions are unwarranted. This casts a slur on their impartiality. This time around, with the call for free and fair elections, wholeheartedly supported by the Supreme Court, and the ECP, efforts are underway to make the scrutiny process strict; but not all candidates being weeded out have had dubious credentials. Some have fallen victim to the returning officers over-enthusiastic questioning. There is a need to free the scrutiny process of controversy.