Stage set for thorough vetting of candidates
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue and State Bank of Pakistan have assured the Election Commission of Pakistan to help identify tax evaders, loan and utility bill defaulters and beneficiaries of written off loans, setting the stage for meaningful scrutiny of declarations of assets to be submitted by candidates contesting the coming general election.
Analysts are of the opinion that the mechanism being evolved for this first exercise in the country’s electoral history will seek to filter out people who use the cover of their dependants to avoid disqualification.
This time the exercise meant to determine financial integrity of candidates will be expanded to cover all their dependants with the help of National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) which maintains the record of all CNIC holders and their family tree.
In a meeting of the commission, senior FBR officials said it would be possible to verify within 10 days the statements of assets and liabilities filed by candidates along with their nomination papers.
They also said they could quickly verify national tax numbers (NTNs) provided by candidates and share with the ECP particulars of the candidates enlisted on tax rolls but who did not file tax returns.
A senior representative of SBP also agreed to share information relating to borrowings and payments made or otherwise which were available with the electronic credit investigation bureau (ECIB) of the bank.
It was decided that FBR Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem, SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar and Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik would be asked to attend the next meeting to be held on Feb 19 to finalise the mechanism to be used for verification of nomination papers to effectively implement the qualification and disqualification clauses (Articles 62 and 63) of the Constitution.
A senior ECP official told Dawn that the eligibility of candidates had been clearly defined in the law and a returning officer was the person who would ascertain which candidates were eligible to contest elections. He said that returning officers normally relied on declarations submitted by candidates and objections raised by opponents or electors.
He said lack of sufficient time to investigate and collect information from other departments had remained a major hurdle in the way of carrying out a detailed scrutiny, but added that there were now clear indications that the time for scrutiny would be doubled before the elections through an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act, 1976.
He said under section 12 (2) (c), each candidates was required to file a declaration that no loan for an amount of two million rupees or more, obtained from any bank, financial institution, cooperative society or corporate body in his own name or in the name of his spouse or any of his dependants, or any business concern mainly owned by him or his dependants stood unpaid for more than one year from the due date, or the candidate had got such loan written off. Under section 12 (2) (d), he said, the candidate was also required to file a declaration that he, his spouse or any of his dependants or a business concerns owned by him or his dependants were not in default in payment of government dues or utility charges, including telephone, electricity, gas and water charges of an amount in excess of Rs10,000 for over six months, at the time of filing of nomination papers.
The law explains that “loan” shall mean any loan, advance, credit or finance obtained or written off on or after Dec 31, 1985.
“Taxes” include all taxes levied by the federal government, provincial governments or a local government and government dues and utility charges include rent, charges of rest houses and lodges owned by the federal, provincial or local governments or corporations established or controlled by such governments. In all three categories, the amount recovery of which has been stayed or suspended by any order of the court or tribunal have been excluded from the scope.
The ECP official said Nadra had been asked to help in identifying all candidates who were liable to be disqualified due to the default of their dependants, making use of its unique database including the family tree of all CNIC holders.