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Winds of change

Much is being written and said about Dr Tahirul Qadri – his background and his motivations. Some claim that he is an agent of foreign countries with the objective of destroying the present system of government. Others claim that his interventions may lead to a military regime.

Still others are linking his movement to his recent visit to India. All this is irrelevant as it diverts us from the core issues at hand. We must remember a golden rule when objectively considering these issues: it is what is said, and not who is saying it, that matters.

If one carefully analyses the statements by Dr Qadri, one cannot but wholeheartedly agree with him that the present system of ‘democracy’ has completely failed to deliver and brought Pakistan to its knees. Massive corruption on a scale that has never been ever witnessed in Pakistan has almost destroyed the country. According to Transparency International (Pakistan), corruption of Rs8,500 billion occurred during the four years between 2008 and 2011. Projecting this figure over five years (2008-2012) brings it to the colossal and staggering sum of Rs11,000 billion (about $110 billion).

This is more than 60 times the amount that we receive in civil and military aid from the US each year! Massive transfer of funds to foreign lands by those in power has led to the collapse of the energy sector by corrupt rental power plant deals, and devastated our industry. Organisations such as PIA, Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Steel and many others have been systematically destroyed while those in power have looted and plundered and appointed tens of thousands of incompetent cronies in these organisations.

The national debt has almost tripled within the last five years while inflation has made it almost impossible for a poor man to live with a semblance of dignity. The once glittering city of Karachi is witness to dead bodies on its roads each day, while opposing political groups mercilessly murder each other’s members in order to get illegal possession of valuable lands.

From mobile phones to vehicles, hundreds of robberies are committed each day at gunpoint in Karachi, and law and order has completely collapsed. The recent murderous assaults in Quetta on the Shia community have left the entire nation in a daze. The Pakistan of our Quaid, for which hundreds of thousands had sacrificed their lives, is dying a slow death.

The financial situation is so critical that the IMF will soon be governing the country, dictating its policies that include raising power and utility rates, with the result that the remaining industries may also soon close down. Before long, negotiations will begin with ‘foreign masters’ about bartering our nuclear weapons for a few loaves of bread. A once great nation is being transformed into a nation of beggars by the massive corruption of our leaders while its citizens watch helplessly.

In light of this situation, the demands of Dr Tahirul Qadri for electoral reforms are not only perfectly legitimate but an urgent and pressing need. What is Dr Qadri demanding? His main demand is that the Supreme Court decision of June 8, 2012, regarding electoral reforms should be implemented forthwith, in letter and spirit, before the next elections are held; otherwise we will have the same corrupt politicians coming into power.

Remember: 350 of the ‘honourable’ gentlemen and ladies had forged their degrees to smuggle themselves into the provincial and national assemblies while the Election Commission, in blatant disregard of the Supreme Court decision, has decided to turn a blind eye to these crooks that rule over us.

Indeed, the former prime minister went so far as to personally canvass in favour of one of these crooks and got him elected with a thumping majority. The demand to implement the Supreme Court decision for electoral reforms before the next elections is the urgent need of the hour. Only crooked politicians would argue against this as they want the status quo to prevail.

The other main demand of Dr Qadri is that there should be a neutral Election Commission, which should carefully screen each person wishing to contest for the National Assembly. At present this vetting process is just eyewash and no real screening occurs. The screening process should be based on the requirements laid down by our constitution that states that the person should be: of good character; be sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen.

Does the Election Commission carefully vet the candidates in accordance with these criteria? Obviously not, or otherwise we would not have the biggest crooks heading our institutions, 350 with forged degrees, who have robbed this country to the tune of Rs11,000 billion, and proved that “democracy is the best revenge” – revenge against the poor and suffering people of Pakistan.

The Election Commission should be a neutral body with no one in it with vested interests. The political parties must not be represented on it, as they would act in collusion to hide each other’s faults. It should be best constituted by nomination of its members by the Supreme Court of Pakistan with each member being a person of distinction and unquestionable integrity.

The present ‘feudocracy’ needs to be replaced by a different presidential system of democracy so that the hands of the chief executive of the country are not tied to selecting federal ministers from parliament. The president should have the complete freedom to select the most competent persons as federal ministers so that technocrats run the country, instead of the corrupt ‘feudocrats’ in power today.

The role of parliament should be limited to lawmaking and oversight on national affairs. The persons to be declared suitable for contesting elections to the National Assembly must not only be ‘honest and ameen’ but also highly educated with a good understanding of legal matters.

The demands of Dr Tahirul Qadri are the need of the hour. If we do not heed them today and continue on our present path of self-destruction, then Pakistan is doomed to be destroyed and Iqbal’s and Jinnah’s dream will turn into a nightmare.

Wake up Pakistanis. We must act to ensure that the decisions of our Supreme Court are implemented in totality before it is too late!

The writer is former federal minister for science and technology and former chairman of the Higher Education Commission.

Atta-ur-Rahman, "Winds of change," The News. 2013-01-18.