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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Pakistani MPs claim frugal lives
By Mubashir Zaidi
BBC News, Islamabad

Parliament of Pakistan
MPs are not renowned for their frugal lives
In Pakistan, politics is considered a rich man's job. Many MPs are either industrialists or agriculturists, and are widely seen as a wealthy elite.

Yet if the recently published list of their assets is to be believed, they are living a frugal and penniless life.

More than 80 MPs on the list released by the Election Commission of Pakistan solemnly declare that they do not own a house, and 100 say they have no car.

MPs who do admit to owning such luxuries are liable to be taxed.

'A joke'

The list of assets released by the Election Commission earlier this month gives the impression that Pakistani MPs are among the most abstentious in the world.

Rally led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) - part of MMA religious alliance
Even the returns of religious parties stretch credulity

In the latest list, two former prime ministers, Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain and Zafarullah Jamali, both formally declare that they have no cars of their own.

Yet Mr Shujaat is one of Pakistan's most well-known known industrialists.

Similarly, many cabinet ministers claim that they do not have either a house or a car.

The ministers of interior, health, law, religious affairs, commerce, and science and information technology all state they are without houses or cars.

So too do the state ministers of economic affairs, parliamentary affairs and foreign affairs.

Critics say their declarations stretch the limits of credulity, and in some cases appear to be a joke at the expense of the authorities.

Wealth understatement

For example, Defence Minister Rao Sikander Iqbal declared ownership of a tractor but not a car.

Even MPs from religious parties appear to understate their wealth.

Two parliamentarians from the alliance of Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), declare that they do not have any assets.

One of them said he had nothing more than two beds, two tables and six chairs.

An Election Commission spokesman said that it was powerless to challenge the asset returns unless complaints were received from members of the public.

But so far none has been submitted.

Analysts say that while some MPs are unquestionably abusing the system, their asset declarations are not always false.

That is because many parliamentarians take the precaution of registering property and housing under the names of close relatives so that they will not be exposed to tax.

"If only they were as clever running the country as they are in dealing with their personal affairs," said one frustrated member of the public.

Do you believe Pakistan's MPs? What does the discrepancy between their known wealth and their stated assets say about Pakistan's politics and values? Would you complain, if it meant the Election Commission could investigate?
Send us your views.

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The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

I don't believe these MPs. There are very few who might not benefit from their authoratative role in government. In fact, I think they are probably rare. What does this say about Pakistan's politics and values? To me it seems that there is lack of accountability everywhere, from a personal level to the governmental level. From a citizen residing in Pakistan's point of view, I would not complain as I would want to just live as much peacefully as possible amidst chaos in a very selfish way. However, from an expat residing elsewhere in the world, it would be a pleasure to complain if I could.
Auon Khan, USA

The wealth declaration form shall be revised to include the properties of any one who provides any kind of service including the transportation and place to live for the MPs.
The MPs live in full luxury, paid by taxes applied to people who can not even feed their family with full meal a day, so the taxes further decrease their food quantity, accordingly these MPs are blood-suckers of the poor people and children of the nation.
I. Khan, Houston TX

All have lots of properties, cars and bank balance but problem is who would ring the bell. The one who would ring the bell from the public, the accused would be ringing his bells.
Syed Javed, New York, USA

Only one word describes these people and that's corrupt. These poloticians have no values. They are only politics to fill their own pockets. I am complaining. Will my voice be heard in Paskitan? NO!.
Amad Ghauri, London, UK

In the West, for buying a house or a car, you just need a job. Rest would be taken care by various financial institutions, which are so willing to provide loans. Even a fresh graduate, who has just got a job, start his hunt for buying a house. But, in South Asia, loan financing is still in a very early stage. So, if you own a House or a Car then most likely you would have bought it with full down payment. Then comes the question of how did you get that kind of money? Did you pay all due taxes on that money? etc.. To avoid such questions, people would have their properties registered in the names of their close relatives. So, we know why these MPs are not rich, but at the same time, it exposes the hollowness of the whole system.
Sandeep, Lucknow, India

I have lived in Pakistan for most of life and consider myself to have a good understanding of Pakistani politics and politicians. The statement about penniless politician should be considered a joke, virtually all of them millionaires and social elites who think of themselves above the law.
Ali Azam, Birmingham, U.K.

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