Accountability for all is a great political slogan, and certainly worked as a headliner for Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s election campaign in 2018. Yet the problem with stringent conditions to enforce accountability is that accountability for all soon becomes accountability against everyone.

The recent notices taken by the Election Commission of Pakistan demonstrate the same. As many as 91 Members of the National Assembly (MNA) have been issued notices to explain material discrepancies in their statements of assets and liabilities for the current financial year. Out of these 91 lawmakers, seven are members of the federal cabinet.

Out of the 91 lawmakers issued notices, only 17 have responded so far, which includes ministers Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Faisal Vawda and Omar Ayub Khan. Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Minister for Defence Production Zubeida Jalal and Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar are among the list of majority MNAs who have not yet responded to the notice. Other lawmakers who have so far not responded to ECP’s notice include former NA speaker Syed Fakhar Imam, Zain Hussain Qureshi, son of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Khursheed Ahmad Shah and NA’s Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri.

Judging by the list of the lawmakers, the notices sent out by the ECP enforce accountability across the board. The list includes some political leaders of the PTI, as well as prominent members of the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). If the PTI government takes the ECP notices seriously and demands the same justice from them as it did in earlier years when it was not the majority party, then it will lend more credence to the accountability movement, as well as the pending National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases against certain politicians.

Yet perhaps the lesson here should not be to shed light upon the importance of accountability across the board, rather on how complicated and nuanced accountability can be. In a country like Pakistan, where income is often not derived from salaries, but from inheritance and land, financial statements of assets and liabilities can be incredibly detailed and difficult- there can be discrepancies in these statements without there being bad faith on part of the lawmakers. Seeing a large number of lawmakers who made mistakes in their financial statements indicates that the standards of “honest and truthful” that have been set by Panama are too stringent to accommodate even the well-meaning.