The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has fielded the most educated candidates for the 21 National Assembly seats in Karachi, with the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) boasting of the second most educated pool of nominees.
A total of 346 candidates, including 12 who are vying for more than one NA seat in the city, are contesting in the July 25 general elections. Among them 117 are independents, 21 belong to the MQM-P and as many to the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), the PSP and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The rest belong to 28 other political parties, including the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H).
The News studied their nomination forms submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and found that 15 per cent (52) of them did not provide their education details, while 13 per cent (44) of them did not mention their occupation.
According to election observers, gathering accurate and complete information about all the candidates participating in the polls is the first step towards ensuring transparency in the entire process.
Of the total NA candidates, 118 hold Bachelor’s degrees in the disciplines of arts, accounting, science, business, law and engineering. Fifty-one have Master’s degrees in those subjects, while seven hold PhD degrees.
Forty-seven nominees are intermediates and 44 are matriculates, including two who have an O level. Twelve studied medicine and dentistry, while 11 studied until middle school. Two went to primary school, while one has an Aalim Fazil certificate from a madrasa.
Of the 52 who did not provide their education details, 20 are independents, six belong to the Awami National Party (ANP), three each to the TLP, the MQM-P and the PTI, two each to the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), the PPPP and the MMA, and one each to the Jannat Party Pakistan (JPP), the Pakistan Sunni Tehreek (PST), the Pasban Pakistan (PP), the MQM-H, the PSP, the PML-N, the Pakistan Peoples Party-Shaheed Bhutto, the Pakistan Justice and Democratic Party (PJDP), the Tehreek-e-Suba Hazara Party (TSHP), the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) and the Pakistan Muslim Alliance (PMA). A few described themselves as illiterates.
The MQM-P has fielded the most educated candidates: 11 Bachelors, five Masters, one PhD. The PSP has the second most educated pool of nominees: nine Bachelors, five Masters and one PhD. The PTI, the PPPP and the MMA take the third spot.
The ANP has fielded the least educated candidates, with only one who holds a Bachelor’s degree, while the GDA and the MQM-H have fielded three and seven graduates respectively.
Most of the candidates (155) run their own businesses, ranging from a Rs200,000 shop to a billion-rupee enterprise, and 32 of them are involved in real estate and construction.
Sixty-two are employed in the private sector, 29 are lawyers, 10 are professional politicians and as many are teachers and landlords. Eight are professional Khateebs, six are physicians, seven are housewives, two are retired, as many are artists and one is a journalist.
Among the 44 who did not mention their occupation, 17 are independents, three each belong to the ANP and the GDA, two each to the PSP, the PST, the TLP, the MMA and the PKI, and one each to the MQM-H, the PJDP, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Noorani, the JPP, the PMA, the PTI, the PML-N, the TSHP, the PP and the PPPP.
Most of the businesspersons (16) are contesting the elections from the platform of the PTI, followed by the MQM-P, the PPPP and the PSP, each of which has fielded 12. The PML-N takes the third spot with 10 businesspersons.
The PML-N has fielded most of the lawyers (three), followed by the PPPP, the MQM-H and the MMA, each of which has fielded two. The MQM-P, the GDA, the PSP and the PTI take the third spot with one lawyer each.
The PPPP has fielded most of the landlords (three), followed by the PML-N and then the MQM-P. The TLP has fielded two Khateebs and the MMA one. Two doctors are contesting from the PSP’s platform, while one from the MMA’s. Two artists are contesting on a PPPP ticket, while the MMA has awarded one to a journalist. Three teachers have been fielded by the TLP, while one each by the MQM-P, the PPPP, the PSP and the MMA.
The MQM-P has fielded the most professional politicians (four), followed by the PPPP, the PTI and the PML-N, each of which has fielded one. The MQM-P, the ANP and the PSP have fielded one housewife each as well.
Prominent human rights activist and academic Farzana Bari said the ECP should be operated in a more effective manner. She said the commission should reject incomplete nomination forms, because public accountability and transparency in the elections is not possible without having access to the candidates’ detailed information. “The ECP, however, is not ready to conduct free and fair elections.”
She said the commission has put its own burden on the shoulders of the military by calling them to the polling stations, adding that despite the fact that the ECP had five years for preparing for the polls, it has completely failed to deliver what was expected from it.
Farzana said lawmaking is extensively hard work, which requires a certain level of education from the legislators, adding that if the people’s representatives have no or inadequate education, then the people cannot expect them to make effective laws. She said that running a business with lawmaking is not possible for public representatives because lawmaking is a fulltime job as well.
Free and Fair Election Network CEO Mudassir Rizvi said there is a need of national consensus on the qualification of the people’s representatives, because all political parties were not on the same page when the then president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf had brought up the condition of BA being the minimum education for every election contestant.
Rizvi said the people should have the right to decide for whom they vote, adding that there should be no issue if an uneducated representative delivers better than an educated one. “According to law, it is not mandatory for any of the election candidates to be an Oxford graduate.”
He said the conditions of Sadiq and Ameen as well as others should be discouraged, because it is the right of every voter to elect a member of his own choice. “If we keep bringing in conditions, only five per cent of the people will remain as eligible to contest the elections.”
However, he added, the people who live in villages or cities must be aware of their right to vote, because when voters know of their rights, they elect good lawmakers. “We cannot expect better lawmaking from uneducated contestants, but experts believe that good lawmaking needs good ideas that an uneducated person can also put before the parliament.”