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04/09/2013

Your wife and a religious scholar are drowning. Who do you save? Bizarre questions posed by Pakistan's election commission

 

Want to run for public office in Pakistan? Prepare to fess up about whether you're properly circumcized or if you'd drink alcohol if you stumbled on it while dying of thirst in the desert.


According to a report in The Express Tribune newspaper, officials with the Election Commission of Pakistan have been asking potential parliamentary candidates a string of probing questions that border on the bizarre.


Other questions electoral officers have asked include:

1. In which situation does bathing become mandatory for married Muslims?
2. Have you stood in front of a girls’ college ever in your life?
3. If in a river, a great religious scholar, your wife and your son are drowning and you could save only one, whom would you save?

The line of questioning became public after a petition was filed by a man who wants to run for public office in Pakistan's May 11 national election, which will be decided by 90 million registered voters.


The election is the first time in Pakistan's 65-year history that it has moved between democratically elected governments. The country has three times experienced military coups, instability that has depressed its economy.


It's unclear how many candidates had to answer the oddball questions, which were condemned by a judge.


"instead of building public confidence and trust, [returning officers] have done otherwise, deeply damaging the image of the judiciary by embarking upon an inquisition through self-tailored subjective question in-front of the live electronic media.

In their overzealous virtuousness they have lost track of law," the judge said, according to the Express Tribune.


As Pakistan debates candidates for next month's election, former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker said this week is spiralling backwards.


“Pakistan is in a state of institutional failure,” Ambassador Ryan Crocker said, according to a story in the Washington Times. “It’s not a failed state, but you could argue it is a failing state.”

One compelling storyline of Pakistan's election has been the return to the country of former President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999 but left the country in 2008 in a self-imposed exile.

He returned to Pakistan last month to run in the upcoming election, and was immediately threated by the Taliban. On Tuesday, Musharraf was barred from leaving the country until he answered allegations of high treason, according to newspaper reports.


Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

 

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