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March 10, 2018

Getting the articles right


March 10, 2018

Unfortunately, much confusion surrounds the Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. In particular, the notions of ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’ have come under extensive scrutiny, very likely on account of the fact that these terms connote, ostensibly for some, an unrealistic degree of uprightness that none can fulfil. Without getting into the current controversies over the law and politics, this article takes a rational look at the root of the two articles.

To begin with, there is an important difference between the nature of Articles 62 and 63: the former lists down the criterion for ‘qualifications’, the latter for ‘disqualifications’, to become a member of parliament. Logically, therefore, the two articles create three (not two) categories of persons: (1) those who are disqualified from becoming members (under Article. 63); (2) those who are qualified to acquire the membership (under Article 62); and (3) those who are neither disqualified nor qualified.

Article 63 lists 16 grounds on which someone can be disqualified from “being elected or chosen as” and from “being a member of parliament” (holding the office). Broadly, the reasons include insanity, insolvency, ceasing to be a citizen of the country, serving as a government official, being disqualified under some law, being convicted for certain offenses, dismissed or compulsorily retired from government service, or being a government contractor. In addition, under Article 63(n), anyone who has borrowed over Rs23 million from a financial institution, in their, their spouse or any dependent’s name, and has been in default for a year or has been written off (even if for legitimate commercial reasons), stands disqualified.

In contrast, Article 62 lists 7 qualifications: (a) citizenship, (b-c) age to hold NA office and enrolment as a voter, (d) good character and not reputed to violate Islamic injunctions (if Muslim), (e) knowledge of Islamic teachings and observance of duties and abstinence from major sins (if Muslim; if non-Muslim, ‘good moral reputation’), (f) the person is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ‘ameen’, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law, and (g) has not worked against the integrity of Pakistan or opposed its ideology.

It is worth noting that the constitution of Pakistan is in the English language, and only its English text is authoritative. Now, the (much bandied about) word ‘sadiq’ does not appear anywhere in the constitution, although it is a popular translation of the word actually used – ‘honest’. But surprisingly, the word ‘ameen’ does occur in the English text – presumably, in the sense of ‘trustworthy’ (although the use of the word ‘ameen’ over ‘trustworthy’ raises unattended questions of interpretation). And finally, the widely misunderstood clause, Article 62(f) does not require a person to be ‘honest’ and ‘ameen’ to become a member of parliament, it only requires that no court of law has declared them to not be honest and trustworthy (ameen) – as the Supreme Court did in the case of Nawaz Sharif and later Jahangir Tareen.

Although much is said about being ‘sadiq’ and ‘ameen’ in the popular media, the requirement of being ‘sagacious, righteous, and non-profligate’ and Article 63(d) and (e) is hardly discussed. On the face of it, it would seem that a member of parliament who spends lavishly on a wedding is profligate, and one who lacks knowledge of Islamic teachings can both be disqualified. Those who have had loans of over Rs20 million written off are also liable to be disqualified under Article 63(n).

It is an open question whether this power of the courts of law (rather than the Election Commission) to disqualify some citizens from politics, and their selective enforcement of some sub-clauses while ignoring others, is consistent with the spirit of the constitution or not

The writer is a retired economist.

Email: [email protected]

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