Pakistan

Undisclosed assets

Only recently, the Broadsheet saga had once again brought to the fore Pakistan’s unprecedented magnitude of corruption. The vendetta added much credence to the ruling party’s call to arms to retrieve all looted wealth of the yesteryears believed to be hidden in nooks across the world. It is not a surprise that largely due to the negative press associated with the term “undisclosed assets,” we have been primed to sling mud on any such practice. This is exactly what went into play in the Supreme Court’s hearing on non-disclosure of assets on Monday. Backpedalling the previous rejection of a candidate’s nomination papers for the PP-240 by-election, the court has gone to great lengths to demarcate the criterion under which the disqualification card could be used. Truly, a shining day for Pakistani law.

Why, one may wonder? Because after what may seem like decades, the court proceedings added to a healthy discourse on the applications of the country’s litigation. No chairs flew across the forum in opposition to the judgement. For according the highest appellate court the due respect it deserved, both parties should be appreciated for adding another depth to the non-disclosure regulations.

Now, the other party cannot be blamed for bringing Ms Shamona Qaisarani to the book. After all, politicians in the country have long twisted the arm of our legal code–by hook or by crook–to keep up modest appearances of their wealth. Annual statements of parliamentarians’ assets can well validate the egrocious discrepancies between the declared humble asset portfolios and the luxurious lifestyles of many, if not all. Speculating over the wealth of the dynastic political elite is nothing but popular fodder for drawing-room gossip all across Pakistan. Last year’s list meant particularly bad news for former premier Shahid Kahaqan Abbasi, who was no longer included in the billionaire club. Call it a direct fallout of our lax tax regulations or the rich and the mighty remote-controlling key institutions; the menace is here to stay! Since undeclared assets are a mere one step removed from the money-laundering frenzy, we simply cannot sit back and relax. Only recently, dozens of stories of bank accounts in penniless residents being flooded with cash only to be emptied in a flick of a switch were reported in media outlets. Yes, the court may have corroborated Qaisarani’s claim to the race, but there still lurk many, many more mala fide abusers of position. Let’s just hope they are not allowed any more liberties than they are already enjoying under the guise of this judgement. We have already made a mark in this regard when the Supreme Court barred former premier Nawaz Sharif from holding public office for life over being named in the notorious Panama leaks. The same rigour needs to be applied to regularly scrutinise all and any such cases. *

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