It has become an annual exercise; lawmakers in both provincial and national assemblies from across party lines neglect to file details of assets and liabilities to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by the yearly deadline. The ECP responds with suspending these representatives who then belatedly file the necessary documents. This time 318 lawmakers have been notified of their suspensions – in 2019 this number was 332 – and they will only be restored once they submit the requisite paperwork.

Exactly why the ECP has to resort to handing out suspensions to get lawmakers to be more transparent is anyone’s guess. Maintaining yearly records of assets and liabilities with the ECP has a crucial function; to prevent an undue accumulation of wealth. This is the first check on politicians and whether they are using their power for unscrupulous measures, and it needs to be respected. Instead, our representatives treat this rule with disdain or indifference. It is not even as if failing to lodge financial records on time will provide an opportunity to avoid the task altogether; suspension is only lifted when assets and liabilities are declared – might as well do it on time.

Even ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and its own public stand against corruption does not induce its party members to practice what they preach. Many from among its ranks routinely fail to declare their assets and liabilities to the ECP. Some of them are even repeat offenders, such as Federal Minister for Science and Technology and a core leader of the party, Fawad Chaudhry. Others such as former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Dr Farogh Naseem, Zartaj Gul and Musadik Malik are well known faces of their parties and should know better. If senior leaders themselves cannot adhere to the values set by their parties, do they really expect the rank and file to act differently?

It is too much to expect that any of the assemblies will pass a resolution against this negative practice, or take steps to counter it, but at the very least, political parties themselves can censure members that do not declare assets on time. Action must be taken for this refusal to respect the laws that bring political leaders to power. This is not a mammoth task; it is perfectly within the abilities of all lawmakers to save themselves, their parties and their offices some unnecessary embarrassment.