LAHORE - The Election Commission of Pakistan’s decision to introduce the amended nomination forms requiring the election candidates to furnish some important information about them before getting clearance to jump into the ring is highly appreciable.

It’s an effective ‘filter’ which will help bring honest and capable people to the assemblies. Now the political parties desirous of contesting the elections will have to be very careful in the selection of their candidates as any misjudgment by them could mean losing seats. Every party will have to put up several candidates for each seat so that it doesn’t go uncontested even if its main nominee is disqualified on any ground.

The decision will enhance the ECP’s image, especially because until recently there were reports that in view of the strong opposition being put up by the government, it will have to go by the previous forms – and thus let tax dodgers, loan defaulters and criminals once again reach parliament.

Some were saying that the octogenarian chief election commissioner- Fakhruddin G Ebrahim - would give in to pressures of political parties. However, the ECP’s decision has belied the impression and proved that it’s not a body of spineless retirees.

It will cause a serious embarrassment to our extraordinarily clever Law Minister Farooq H Naek, who is capable of proving the night day and vice versa. He had proved his professional skill in saving the job of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf by writing such an innocuous letter to the Swiss authorities that simultaneously satisfied the apex court, his client the prime minister and the real boss, the president.

He outsmarted even Aitzaz Ahsan, who despite his best efforts in the same case, could not save the job of Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister.

Naek met the Chief Election Commissioner a few days ago and apprised him of the government’s reservations about various amendments being introduced in the nomination papers.

He had said in an interview that anything which was not in the purview of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution should not be included in the nomination form.

The minister cited a proposed amendment under which a candidate will be required to submit a statement on oath that he has neither ceased to be a citizen of Pakistan nor has he acquired any foreign nationality and said he will have no objection if information about his foreign citizenship is provided by a foreign state to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The minister’s argument does not hold water. Everyone knows that a number of parliamentarians were dual nationals but they did not declare the same till somebody else pointed out and they had to quit their seats. Even our worthy interior minister is a dual national but he remained a Senator – and by virtue of that a member of the cabinet with an important portfolio. Interestingly, when the Supreme Court suspended him as a member of the upper house, the president appointed him as an adviser, who is not necessarily a member of either house. He surrendered his British nationality after prolonged court proceedings and hopes to become presidential adviser once the assemblies cease to exist after completing their term.

The ECP’s decision to ask the election candidates to let their constituents know about their past performance is also admirable.

It is an open secret that all legislators get huge development funds for their constituencies. But they spend the same according to their whims. As a result, the most constituencies are as under-developed as before.

Most of the so-called elected representatives don’t come up to the expectations of their electors, but still they want to get re-elected at any cost.

Now that they will have to tell the voters the services they rendered to them during the past five years, it would be easier for the electors to decide whether to support them once again.

If the elections are a means to hold the politicians accountable, then a performance report of every leader must be presented to the people.

There is also a column in the form under which a candidate is not only required to mention his educational qualification but also attach an attested copy thereof.

The law minister said that BA degree was no more a requirement under the law (and thus it should not be made part of the nomination form).

True, but this provision will keep the bogus degree holders out of parliament. The candidates will have to prove that their claims about their educational qualifications are true.

The ECP has done well by calling for the details of taxes, loans and criminal records.

There are many in the outgoing assemblies who don’t qualify to get elected. But they hoodwinked their way into the assemblies.

If the new nomination forms are not rejected by the president, or if some other negative development doesn’t take place, the ECP’s decision will seal the fate of many who are thinking of getting elected once again.