Recently MQM filed a reference against Imran Khan in the National Assembly under article 62-63 of the constitution. This was in reaction to Imran Khan accusing MQM’s leader Altaf Husain of terrorism after the murder of more than 30 people in Karachi on March 12th and preparing to file a case against him in the British courts. It’s a sad state of affairs when a party responds to the charges of killing several people by launching personal attacks on the accuser. Here’s a brief video on article 62-63 and Imran Khan’s response to it (the vidoe is in Urdu, for the actual text and brief discussion in English, see the text below the video).

Let’s see what these two articles actually say. Here is the text of article 62 from the constitution of Pakistan -

[62. Qualifications for membership of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).
A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) unless :-
(a) he is a citizen of Pakistan;

[64B][(b) he is, in the case of the National Assembly, not less than twenty -five years of age and is enrolled as a voter in any electoral roll in-

(i) any part of Pakistan, for election to a general seat or a seat reserved for non-Muslims; and
(ii) any area in a Province from which he seeks membership for election to a seat reserved for women.]
(c) he is, in the case of Senate, not less than thirty years of age and is enrolled as a voter in any area in a Province or, as the case may be, the Federal Capital or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, from where he seeks membership;
(d) he is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic Injunctions;
(e) he has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practises obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sins ;
(f) he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen;
(g) he has not been convicted for a crime involving moral turpitude or for giving false evidence;
(h) he has not, after the establishment of Pakistan, worked against the integrity of the country or opposed the Ideology of Pakistan
Provided that the disqualifications specified in paragraphs (d) and (e) shall not apply to a person who is a non-Muslim, but such a person shall have good moral reputation; and
(i) he possesses such other qualifications as may be prescribed by Act of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).]

 

This is quite interesting, has to be one of the most ridiculous pieces of legal text I have ever come across. Besides the fact that more than 75% of the elected members of the Pakistan parliment will get disqualified if this is ever applied on a massive scale, this is too vague, personal and undemocratic to be included in the constitution of a state that claims to be a democracy. Let’s especially look at parts d,e and f.
1. Part d says that the person has to be of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islam.
Firstly, how does one define good character. Do Muslim scholars have any agreement on what good character is? Secondly, a person who is commonly know as one who violates Islam may be the most righteous one around. Can we judge a person’s piety by what others say about him? It is thus possible to disqualify an elected member of the parliament by creating a perception that s/he violates Islam. If people of Pakistan are giving the person their vote of confidence in his capabilities and character by electing him to the parliament, how can some vague notion of character be used to disqualify him? That is an insult to the people of Pakistan
2. Part e states that the person must have adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings, practices obligatory duties prescribed by Islam and abstains from major sins.
This again is deliberately kept vague so that it can be opportunistically used for political purposes. “Adequate knowledge of Islam” – who is the judge of that? Islam by its very nature is a democratic religion, Islam does not have a pope, everything is between you and your God. The idea of having one individual or a set of individuals assigned to assess righteousness in others goes against the very spirit of Islam.
3. Part f says that the person in question has to be “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen”.
In the 32 years of my life (21 in Pakistan and the rest in the US), I have yet to meet even a single individual who meets this criteria. How can such personal and highly subjective qualities of a person be proven or disproved in the court of law. Remember, the purpose of the constitution is to set the basis of legislation, how can any precise law be derived from this article.
We must ask how did such articles make it into our constitution. As expected, it was the same person who arguably caused more harm to Pakistan than any other individual in its history – General Zia-ul-Haq. These preposterous articles were included in the constitution on Presidential Ordinance No. 14 of 1985. Remember this was the time the general was busy courting the religious parties. Now let’s look at the article 62 from the original constitution of 1973. It reads as follows –

“62. Qualifications for membership of Parliament.– A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Parliament unless:
(a) he is a citizen of Pakistan,
(b) he is, in the case of the National Assembly, not less than twenty-five years of age and is enrolled as a voter in any electoral roll for election to that Assembly;
(c) he is, in the case of the Senate, not less than thirty years of age and is enrolled as a voter in any area in a Province or, as the case may be, the Federal Capital or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, from where he seeks membership; and
(d) he possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed by Act of Parliament.”

Notice the precise language, this is what our constitution was before the military dictators, first Zia-ul-Haq and then Musharraf tarnished it to the point that it has ceased to remain a constitution at all.
I urge all Pakistanis to campaign to revert articles 62 and 63 back to their original form as they were in the 1973 constitution. They were inserted into the constitution to pacify the religious extremists and have no place in the constitution of a democratic or an Islamic republic. Every time I read our constitution I get bewildered by so many things that just do not make any sense at all. Most of them can be traced back to Zia’s regime.
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