The documents from the Election Commission of Pakistan regarding the assets of lawmakers in both the upper and lower houses of Parliament outline two major facts; many lawmakers and politicians are part of the wealthiest individuals in the country, and many are not serious about submitting the details of their assets to the electoral regulatory body in a bid to increase transparency.

Out of these two facts, the first is not really a revelation and the second should not be shocking either. It is well-known that politicians have attempted to hide their assets or have been disinterested in the declaration process, to the point where the regulatory body briefly suspended the membership from houses of over 300 lawmakers in 2016. However, even with these punitive measures, the assets declared are often well below the amount needed for the extravagant lifestyles that many political leaders live.

Beyond this, there is no real mechanism to prevent lawmakers from hiding the wealth they have, and there is seemingly no action taken against those who do so.

It is clear that suspension from the houses of parliament for a temporary period is not enough of a deterrent to prevent lawmakers from declaring an incomplete list of their assets. With the current mechanism, many politicians ignore the call for asset declaration until their membership is suspended, after which there is a sudden scramble to give ECP the requisite information to get the suspension lifted. Repeat offenders should face a stricter punishment and those that lie about their details also need to brought to task.

Political representatives are the face of the electorates they represent, and have to set an example for the population at large about fair dealings and practices. In Pakistan however, this is a far cry from the truth – we have repeated examples of lawmakers attempting to duck and dodge any and all laws, including those that allow for the public to actually have oversight over them.