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Charter of True Democracy?

The best news to come out of Pakistan in recent years has been the meeting a few days back and the joint declaration by Dr. Tahirul Qadri and the leaders of the PMLQ which, in spite of some failings, had shown the best governance the country had seen during the last few decades.

In January, 2013, Dr. Tahirul Qadri led a  historic long march on Islamabad aimed at tackling the malaise in Pakistan’s body politic. It was aimed at putting a stop to the flouting of constitutional provisions and paving the way for true democracy, which has eluded the people of Pakistan for several decades. For five days, Dr. Qadri’s supporters braved the icy weather while the whole country sat riveted to their TV and radio sets, enthralled by the voice of truth and irrefutable logic. The hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan were won over, and their hearts were beating in consonance with Dr. Tahirul  Qadri and his brave band of men, women and children. The only voices of discord were raised by jealous politicians who felt threatened, and some upstart media moguls of Pakistan, conspiracy-theorists who try to character-assassinate the singer, without even listening to his song. His march shook the corridors of power.

Unfortunately, the onward march floundered owing to a let down by a leader who would have been its biggest beneficiary, a Machiavellian scheme hatched by politicians to have it called off by false pretences, and a misplaced trust in a biased judiciary.  It is heartening to note that Dr. Qadri has kept on his struggle, and his “Awami Tehreek” is spreading his message across the electronic media through articles and hard-hitting talk show interviews. His “haq goyee” (speaking the truth) and rhetoric is reminiscent of the great leaders of the sub-continent in the past. He  is the only public figure in Pakistan who has identified  the root causes of  disease and instability in the country’s body politic:

(a)  a pseudo-democratic parliamentary system of government which, in Pakistan, has become largely based on bribery and a business of “staking and making money”, as correctly defined by Imran Khan during the mid-1990s,  and which can only be rectified by removing the "lucrativeness" out of political office: by separating the executive branch of the government from the legislature, and

(b)  an uneven division of the country into provinces based on ethnicities, without devolution of power to the grass-roots. Not only has this increased the distance between the people and the seat of government, it has also  given rise to feelings of insecurity among the smaller provinces and an ever-willingness to play the “Sind Card” , the “Baluchistan Card” and the “Pakhtoonkhwah Card”. A setup where sixty per cent of the population resides in one province (the Punjab) is unwieldy, and is bound to raise feelings of insecurity in the smaller provinces (in contrast, the population of California, the largest state of the USA, is only fifteen per cent of the country's total population).  The Quaid-i-Azam had described the existing demarcation and the consequent provincialism as "a relic of the old administration". He had said, "We are now all Pakistanis – not Baluchis, Pathans, Sindhis, Bengalis, Punjabis and so on … and should be proud to be known as Pakistanis and nothing else. " (Quaid-i-Azam Speaks, June 15, 1948, p. 156).  The ethnicity-based provinces make it difficult for a national identity to emerge. As Khalil Gibraan had said, "Woe unto the nation that is split into numerous fragments, Each fragment considering itself to be a nation!". Administrative divisions are always necessary and used all over the world but, if they are based on ethnicity, undesirable results would be obtained.

To counter the malaise Dr. Qadri has proposed a system based on 35 provinces, and a popularly elected prime minister or president, who would select an administration of technocrats based on the best brains in the country.  I had written some articles with similar proposals during the 1990s (e.g. “The Problem and the Solution”,  Pakistan Link, August, 11, 1995), except that instead of 35 I had suggested 12 provinces based on the former divisions of West Pakistan under One Unit. I had the opportunity to email the article to Lt. General Tanvir Naqvi, architect of the brilliant Nazim System, which restored  power to the people at the grass-roots for the first time in Pakistan’s history,  before the succeeding politicians started messing around with it, without any resolution in sight.  Lt. Gen. Naqvi was kind enough to read the article but said that President Musharraf’s government was bound to stay with the provisions of the 1973 constitution in these aspects.

This will be Dr Tahirul Qadri’s  biggest challenge:  how is he going to bell the cat, the “holy cow” of the 1973 constitution?  Hopefully, his Movement will acquire enough momentum so that the powers that be are forced to have a referendum on this issue, so that the necessary constitutional changes can be made to make his dream a reality.

At the press conference following the meeting Chaudhry Shuja’at pointed out that their intention was not to chheenofy  (grab) anything from any body. That’s alright, but an exception will have to be made in the case of looted wealth. The government and the people have the right to chheenofy that wealth and bring it back, whether it is inside or outside Pakistan. It is too late to end  feudalism the way it was done in India – by an act of parliament within a few years of its independence.  (To this single act India owes the progress of its democracy to its current stage, where a homeless refugee and a tea-seller can successively become the chief executives of the country.)  Feudalism can be ended in Pakistan the way it was done in the United Kingdom: by the imposition of heavy death duties to the extent that lords and nobles were reduced to the financial status of a common man within a few generations. This must be accompanied by the abolition of benami, again something which was done in India by an act of parliament in 1988.

The leaders meeting in London have decided to approach the MQM, the TI and other parties with a view to get their co-operation in the mission. I feel that, apart from the top leadership, the call should also go out to the rank and file membership of the other parties, which contains many patriotic, sincere, devoted and disciplined workers.  Some of leaders are beset by inflated egos and the ‘me first’ attitude, and have disappointed the workers.

Dr. Qadri and the leaders joining him will have their job cut out for them. The people are tired of the "plunder and loot by turn" perpetuated by the two major political parties of the country, which has repeatedly brought it to the brink of financial bankruptcy, necessitating military intervention or presidential action. When the country’s founding fathers envisioned Pakistan, they envisioned it as a country where the people could enjoy the freedoms which are their birth right: freedom to go about in peace and security, protection of their rights to speedy justice, and freedom for them to advance in life on the basis of merit and merit alone.  Godspeed and all strength to Dr. Tahirul Qadri and to those joining him in his mission. In the words of the poet Muzaffar Shahjahaanpuuri,

“Ek aik museebat zaadi ko jab tak na bana dein shahzadi,

Ai dost abhi aaraam na kar hai Khaam sha’oor-e-aazaadi”

(Until we turn every victim of oppression into a princess,

Don’t rest, dear friend; the mission of freedom is still unfulfilled!)

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