Prof. Farah A.Khan:
On January 13th 2013 Dr Tahirul Qadri coming from Canada called for anti government dharna in Islamabad. A massive crowd moved across Pakistan to Islamabad at his call. The determined mass of people women and children sat on the main boulevard of the city through rain and cold for four days. The government and opposition political parties were shaken. The government finally capitulated and held talks with Dr Qadri signing an agreement. Meanwhile Dr Qadri has formed his own party called Pakistan Awami Tehrik.
The response of the PPP government was to discredit Dr Qadri. His dual nationality and personal life was criticised. The timing of his dharna near the end of PPP government’s tenure and elections was seen as a conspiracy to derail democracy or delay elections. Dr Qadri’s initial rant against five years of PPP government corruption and incompetence was ignored by the media and the ruling party.
Why did Dr Qadri’s call produce a dramatic response from the people? For that matter why suddenly Imran has become a hero after 15 years of wilderness? Both should thank PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari for their meteoritic rise from oblivion. In one TV interview Dr Qadri came up with a profound statement. He claimed that response to his sudden arrival was because the PPP government was corrupt and incompetent and people wanted change.
Every day we experience a new government scam/scandal. There is massive deterioration of law and order in Sindh, Balochistan and KP. The inflation rate is unbelievable. Lack of gas and electricity is intolerable. People are appointed in senior positions and then found to be utterly corrupt. Sectarian bloodshed has reached its peak. Our president and prime ministers are allegedly criminals. We are told that most political party leaders have money stacked in foreign banks and have safe havens abroad.
There is common feeling that democracy is the best answer to our problems. Pakistan has had one relatively free and fair elections (1970) and we lost one half of the country. Democracy may be the best form of governance but it can lead to divisions rather to unity. We are also told that people have to learn to be in a democratic frame of mind and solve disputes through the ballot rather than violence. This process is supposed to take time. India has had uninterrupted democracy since 1947 and still has the most corrupt criminal element in their assemblies. The main advantage of democracy is that there is a mechanism to change leaders without bloodshed.
So far in Pakistan democracy and religion have been used by the powerful and rich to promote their own agenda. Poised for the next elections Pakistan has a problem. Zardari ‘Party’ cannot afford free and fair elections. Their objective is to keep Zardari as president with his immunity intact by what ever means. If Zardari ‘Party’ looses the top brass of the present government shall take their private jets off to Dubai. This may be the best scenario for the PPP. With Zardari out of the way PPP may emerge as a modern democratic party rather than a dynastic concern.
When Zardari emerged as a candidate for presidency following his wife’s sad demise many were horrified. A semi literate wheeler-dealer with no experience of governance know as Mr 10% was jockeying for the most powerful position in the country and succeeded. Why?
My theory is that Zardari’s agenda is to destroy Pakistan. This may just be my perception but shall back it with observations. He has selected the most corrupt people to hold important positions in government owned corporations with devastating results. These people have been either been removed by NAB or the superior courts. Our present prime minister also called Rental Raja has been implicated in Rental Power Plants graft saga. Our parliament and senate are subservient to the whims of Zardari. Most members are there to grab privileges and make money. The economy is in shambles and we now have the fifth finance minister installed few weeks before the parliament is to finish its tenure. Institutions in Pakistan have been politicised and are dysfunctional. Worse hit is the police service resulting in breakdown of law and order. The only star for the Zardari is that PPP is going to complete 5 years, which is first time for Pakistan. Let me remind you that Italy since 1945 had only one parliament, which completed its 5 years term. Italy and Pakistan have identical political issues. Corrupt politicians and tax evasion is rampant. Silvio Berlusconi is again vying for the top position despite massive charges of corruption and grave moral issues. Berlusconi ‘led Italy to the brink of bankruptcy in 2011, who is accused of tax fraud, Mafia associations, exploiting underage prostitutes and misconduct in public office’ (Giumelli, Francesco and Maneschi, Davide. Why Italians vote for Berlusconi. International Herald Tribune. February 27, 2013). The 13 months caretaker government of technocrats led by Mr Monti was routed. The educated European Italians are no better than Pakistanis when it comes to voting. They both look for ‘uomo forte, the strongman’. Beppe Grillo an ex-comedian (Five Star Movement) is leading a Qadri style anti corruption drive but is unlikely to win significant support from the voters to form a government. However he has put a spanner in Italy’s politics (Parks, Tim. In Italy, illusion is the only reality. International Herald Tribune. February 25, 2013).
Decisions taken by Mr Zardari makes me feel that he wants to loot Pakistan into a failed state and lord over its final disintegration before he flies off to Dubai. Gas pipeline agreement with Iran by Zardari is to impose US sanctions on Pakistan. This will be his revenge. Most opinion polls show that PPP graph has dropped significantly and unlikely to win the next elections unless rigging is rampantly applied. I thus feel that despite PPP leaders claiming to have free fair elections on time but are making all efforts to delay or postpone elections only to save Zardari and his cronies from the courts.
Elections in Pakistan are already in doldrums. There is no government in Sindh, Balochistan and KP. Punjab seems to be dominated by PML-N and PTI. PPP has been knocked off the board in Punjab. The dubious role of so-called conspiracy of foreign powers (never defined by the government) and ‘executive’ agencies in not holding elections has been highlighted by many analysts. We have also to consider the actions of Dr Qadri and may be the return of Gen Musharraf on our political scene. Pakistan is facing the worst terrorist attacks in form of sectarian killings (M on M: Muslim on Muslim) and bombing of civilians and defence agencies by people never clearly identified. There are fears that if 2013 elections are held they will be bloody.
A word about the Election Commission of Pakistan. They are striving to select right candidates for the election by putting stringent clauses to make them eligible for participating in the elections. Gen Ziaul Haq had put in vague requirement for eligibility for elections in the Constitution, which would have debarred him for any service in Pakistan. Neither the Constitution nor the Election Commission has the right to debar anyone for participation in elections. It is the basic right of the voting public to decide whom they want to vote for.
I have always maintained that culture is stronger than religion and now democracy. Culture adapts to foreign ideas but never adopts these new themes. Pakistani culture of powerful shall prevail and ‘Awam’ will be side lined in the struggle for ‘democratic’ power. Religious people and parties out rightly condemn democracy as an un-Islamic foreign intervention.