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- Saturday, April 06, 2013 - From Print Edition

Are we slipping back into darker times? Looking back towards that era under Gen Ziaul Haq and his warped notions of Islamisation? Certainly the goings-on at the offices of returning officers, where electoral candidates are being scrutinised suggest this – and the goings-on are disturbing. Ayaz Amir, a columnist as well as a politician, had his papers for NA-60 in Chakwal rejected on the basis that he had written against Pakistan’s ideology and the two-nation theory. This decision, which can only be described as ludicrous, has left both Amir and many others shocked. Ayaz Amir is to challenge the decision and the peculiar interpretation of Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution – introduced of course by General Zia – apparently used by the RO. This is a challenge that must be made.

Others too have suffered as a result of these clauses, which demand candidates have an ‘adequate’ knowledge of Islamic teaching. The term ‘adequate’ is obviously open to many interpretations. But the manner in which it is being used by ROs is shocking. Entire tests in Islamiyat appear to be the order of the day. How this will help us find legislators able to offer good governance skills is far from clear. The MQM believes one of its candidate’s papers were rejected on the basis that he lacked sufficient Islamic learning and is planning to appeal. MQM leader Altaf Hussain has made a forceful plea at a news conference to stop this practice and even sarcastically asked the chief election commissioner to address the nation and educate them on how to offer funeral prayers correctly. Across the country candidates have been asked to recite various Quranic verses as a part of the scrutiny process. Many have stumbled. Among those who sailed through was actress Mussarat Shaheen, taking on Maulana Fazlur Rehman in DI Khan. Shaheen was able to fluently recite many verses, and offered to continue with others. Ironically, among the failures has been a Jamaat-e-Islami candidate! Other odd goings-on also continue. In Lahore, a female candidate and her husband both suffered a lecture by the RO on parenting – warning the husband that his children would be ‘damaged’ if his wife embarked on a career in politics. All this is ridiculous and unacceptable. The scrutiny process must be saved from becoming a farce. Drawing poisonous water from the bottomless well of ideology is not going to do us any good. By all means scrutinise the candidates as severely as possible to prevent the corrupt and the criminally inclined from getting elected, but leave religion alone. Or we travel down a dangerous road which can only end in disaster as Talibanisation sweeps over across the country, stifling it in multiple ways.

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