LAHORE – ASHRAF MUMTAZ - Pakistan Awami Tehrik Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri says the upcoming general elections will not be free, fair and transparent as the Election Commission of Pakistan has ‘relaxed’ the provisions about the defaulted loans and outstanding utility bills, because of which those who get stay orders from various courts will be eligible to contest.

According to him, Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, dealing with the qualifications and disqualifications of the election contestants, have become irrelevant after the ‘explanation’ of the words loan, taxes and dues incorporated by the ECP in the new nomination papers.

Dr Qadri, who will announce his party’s policy about contesting or abstaining from the elections at a public meeting to be held in Rawalpindi tomorrow (Sunday), has got from somewhere new nomination paper to see what reforms has the ECP introduced therein.

After thoroughly examining the ‘reformed’ nomination paper at the party level, Dr Qadri told TheNation here on Friday that the ECP had failed to bring about any positive change in the papers and no positive outcome of the elections could be expected.

He said in the new nomination paper the word loan has been explained: The loan shall mean any loan, advance, credit or finance obtained or written off on or after 31st day of December 1985, but shall not include the loan the recovery of which has been stayed or suspended by an order of a court or tribunal, including the High Court or the Supreme Court. As for taxes, the form says, they will include all taxes levied by the federal government, provincial government or a local government, but shall not include taxes the recovery of which has been stayed or suspended by any order of a court or tribunal. A similar provision has also been incorporated about the outstanding dues.

The PAT chairman said at present there was no politician who was unable to get the recovery or a loan, tax or any other dues stayed or suspended by a court. Thus, he said, all efforts to keep such people away from parliament have failed.

In his opinion people against who cases of serious charges are pending will also be eligible to contest the election. Since no final decision has been given in cases against President Zardari, outgoing prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and many others in cases against them, they will be fully ‘qualified’ to take part in the elections.  When pointed out that a mere allegation provides no justification to anyone to keep an ‘accused’ leader out of the electoral process, Dr Qadri said yardstick for leaders was always different from the one for the common citizens.

The integrity and trustworthiness of leaders, he argued, should be beyond all doubts and accusations as they were supposed to run the country and look after its interests. He substantiated his argument citing the example of the Western countries where a leader steps down when some allegation is levelled against him. He said such leaders don’t wait for the time the allegations against them are proved.

As for the ‘friction’ going on between the government and the ECP, Dr Qadri said it was a ‘mock fight’ aimed at enhancing the credibility of the poll body so that the election results to be declared by it were accepted by all.

He reiterated his stand that not all constitutional requirements had been met in the formation of the ECP. Therefore, he said, objections against its composition were very valid.

Dr Qadri had taken the matter to the Supreme Court, but the judges had thrown out his petition, saying being a dual national he had no locus standi to raise the challenge.

The PAT chairman said the ‘reformed’ nomination papers have not been shown to the media, because of which the common man doesn’t know what changes have been introduced in them.

He said despite the polls dynastic politics would continue, corruption and extremism would go up and the people would continue to suffer.

According to him, an important Islamic country was using his influence to get elected a particular leader. However, he did not name the country or the leader he was referring to.