The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday temporarily suspended membership of 272 lawmakers after they failed to submit details of their assets within the stipulated time. Those suspended include federal and state ministers.
The election authority has sent notices to the suspended lawmakers in addition to asking respective speakers of assemblies to stop the listed members from working.
Read: Disposal of petitions: Suspend MPs causing unnecessary delay, says ECP
Prominent among those suspended include Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Yusuf, Federal Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastagir Khan and Minister of State for Religious Affairs Ameenul Hasanat.
This is the highest number of members suspended in the past five years and points to a worrying trend which had been on a decline till 2013 when as few as 26 members were suspended.
The biggest jump, percentage-wise, came in the Senate which saw a 650 per cent increase from just two members not filing details of their assets last year to 13 this year. The National Assembly saw a jump of 55 per cent, from 40 last year to 62 this year.
In terms of absolute members who did not disclose their assets and liabilities this year, the biggest contributor was the Punjab Assembly where 123 MPAs failed disclose their assets. This is 25 members more from the 98 members who were suspended for a similar offence last year.
Read: Above the law: CEC disqualifies 26 lawmakers in Gilgit-Baltistan
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 39 MPAs failed to disclose their assets. This is up from 32 members who failed provide details of their wealth.
Sindh, however, is the only provincial assembly which saw fewer members reluctant to disclose details of their assets with 26 members facing suspension. This is down from 28 last year. In Balochistan, it seemed members did not learn many lessons and nine members are yet to submit details of their assets, the same number of MPAs who faced a suspension last year.
Those who have been suspended till they furnish details of their assets include Awais Laghari, ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader Amin Fahim, Taj Haider, former NA speaker Fahmida Mirza, Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Farogh Naseem, wami National Party’s Senator Shahi Syed National Party chief Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo and Maulana Muhamamd Khan Shirani.
According to Section 42A of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 and Section 25A of the Senate (Election) Act, 1975, parliamentarians are supposed to file details of their assets and liabilities, and those of their spouse and dependents within 90 days of the culmination of the fiscal year.
Read: Curtain raiser: PTI to move resolution to verify MPs’ assets
Introduced in 2002 by the then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf the law is flouted by politicians at will. In 2011, 222 lawmakers were suspended for not disclosing their assets. That figure declined to 154 in 2012 and was reduced to just 26 in 2013, election year. However, it jumped to 209 the following year in 2014.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2015.