Scrutiny, Sexism and a Spelling Bee
By Rana Yasif / Khalid Qayyum
April 4, 2013
The scrutiny of electoral hopefuls has seemingly turned into a theatre of the absurd.
On Wednesday, returning officers (ROs) sought comments from former chief minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif on four applications submitted against him seeking rejection of his nomination forms for the May 11 polls. While the filing of such applications is normal, some of the grounds seeking Shahbaz’ rejection are anything but. In one application, the petitioner pointed out that, since the former CM had no beard, he was clearly in violation of Articles 62 and 63. He also said that Shahbaz had taken no action against a person who wrote ‘Pakistan Murdabad, Pakhtunkhwa Zindabad’ on his ballot paper in the 1997 elections.
The other petitions against him are on a more serious note, alleging corruption and claiming that Shahbaz is not in fact ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ as he has, in the petitioner’s words, failed to give correct information about his sources of income. Yet another petition refers to the former CM’s involvement in the Asghar Khan case.
By and large, nominees had to face a great deal of embarrassment when they showed up for scrutiny only to face what amounted to a religious studies exam, with many hopefuls fumbling recitations of the Dua-e-Qunoot.
Former Pashto film actress Musarrat Shaheen, however, was not one of them. Shaheen, who is now the chairperson of the Tehreek-e-Musawat and is contesting NA-24 Dera Ismail Khan against Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, had her papers accepted by the RO after breezing through the scrutiny process. After flawlessly reciting Sura Akhlas and Dua-e-Qunoot, Shaheen offered to recite Surah Yaseen and any other Quranic passage of the judge’s choosing. The offer was declined. Shaheen attributed her knowledge of Islam to her father, whom she also said was the only love of her life.
Scrutiny or Sexism?
Other female candidates had to face questions of quite a different nature.
In Lahore, aspiring candidate Tayyaba Sohail Cheema was told by the provincial election commissioner Punjab, Anwar Mehboob that she didn’t look her age. “You don’t seem to be 35, show your face to all around so that people can see that you seem much younger,” Mehboob directed her.
Another candidate, Sadia Sohail, who was accompanied by her husband Shahid Sohail, got a lesson in parenting. “When your wife will become MNA or MPA, all the arrangements at your home will be ruined and no one will be there to attend your children and they will be ruined,” Mehboob told her husband.
On the other hand, aspiring candidate Shoaib Khan Niazi of NA 121, used the occasion to profess his love for his wife. When asked if he had any children by RO Rai Ayoub Khan Marth, Niazi replied that he did not. He went on to tell the court that he had a wife whom he loved very much and who loved him in return. “I am nothing without my wife,” said Niazi. Seemingly satisfied with this response, the RO then asked him if he offered prayers to which Niazi candidly replied that he did not.
Over in Karachi, Sunni Tehreek’s Ps-128 candidate Zahid Ahmad had to face embarrassment when he was asked 3 simple questions by Additional district and Sessions court judge Farzana Iqbal. Ahmad was asked what the abbreviation LLB stands for and how to spell ‘graduation’ and ‘superintendent’. He was wrong on all three counts.