Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday submitted reply in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) through his counsel regarding alleged disparities in his wealth details submitted with the electoral body while questioning the electoral body's move to seek explanation from him in the matter.
Senior PPP leader Senator Farooq Naek appeared before the commission as Bilawal's counsel and took the stance that the commission can also seek explanation from a lawmaker for any alleged disparity in his/her wealth statements in the light of the related provisions of the Elections Act and not any other law.
The ECP has adjourned the case till February 6.
On January 9, the ECP asked the PPP chairman to appear before the commission either in person or through his counsel on January 14 to address certain queries related to his latest statement of assets and liabilities submitted with the ECP.
However, given that the ECP is presently dysfunctional, the acting chief election commissioner/members ECP are not authorized to deal with the matter, it is learnt.
Keeping in view that the ECP has been left dysfunctional following the retirement of CEC Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza (retd) on December 5, 2019, the acting CEC/members ECP are no longer authorized to hear the case or decide any matter concerning politicians, lawmakers, political parties or any related electoral dispute, sources in the ECP told Business Recorder.
While the ECP's functions performed by the CEC and members ECP have come to a halt due to its incomplete formation, the ECP officers continue to perform their duties as per routine and are authorized to take decisions on related issues, sources added.
On December 6, 2019, Justice Altaf Ibrahim Qureshi (retd), a sitting ECP member from Punjab, took oath as acting CEC but the ECP would remain dysfunctional due to its incomplete formation. The positions of members ECP from Sindh and Balochistan have been lying vacant since earlier last year
Constitutionally, all the parliamentarians and members of the provincial assemblies are bound to submit their yearly statements of assets and liabilities and those of their spouses and dependent children as on each year's June 30, a mandatory requirement under Section 137 of the Elections Act, 2017.
This section reads, "Submission of statement of assets and liabilities.- (1) Every Member of an Assembly and Senate shall submit to the Commission, on or before 31st December each year, a copy of his statement of assets and liabilities including assets and liabilities of his spouse and dependent children as on the preceding thirtieth day of June on Form B.
"(2) The Commission, on the first day of January each year through a press release, shall publish the names of Members who failed to submit the requisite statement of assets and liabilities within the period specified under sub-section (1).
"(3) The Commission shall, on the sixteenth day of January, by an order suspend the membership of a Member of an Assembly and Senate who fails to submit the statement of assets and liabilities by the fifteenth day of January and such Member shall cease to function till he files the statement of assets and liabilities.
"(4) Where a Member submits the statement of assets and liabilities under this section which is found to be false in material particulars, he may, within one hundred and twenty days from the date submission of the statement, be proceeded against for committing the offence of corrupt practice."
The ECP, every year, makes public the wealth details of the legislators, their spouses and dependent children of the previous fiscal year.