Cure the Disease, not the Symptoms
After all the hype created at his very successful public meeting at Bahawalpur recently, it seems a pity that Imran Khan should have restricted himself to four question-answer “demands” focused on rigging in four constituencies during the last elections. He has the honesty and the charisma to assume leadership of the country some day, but he doesn’t seem to realize that there is little chance of him attaining that leadership under the current corruption-ridden, degenerated parliamentary system of government in Pakistan. The rigging in the elections, the recent horrific killings in Model Town, Lahore, and the general chaos are just symptoms of a three-pronged malaise besetting the country, rooted in:
- a pseudo-democratic system of government, where the amalgamation of the executive and legislative arms of government lays the foundation for corruption in all spheres of the public sector, which has made politics in Pakistan a business of ‘staking and making money’, as Imran himself had identified at the start of his political career,
- an absence of national identity, with the country unevenly divided into four, ethnicity-based provinces with 60% of the country’s population living in one province (in contrast, the population of California, the most populous state of the USA is only 15% of the country’s total population), and
- rural and urban feudalism, which manifested its ugly face in the brutal killings of fourteen innocents and the wounding of several others in Model Town, Lahore. This reminded one of the movies of the sub-continent during the 50s and 60s, where henchmen of the local chaudhry or wadera brutalized their unarmed opponents. The only difference was that the henchmen were not paid servants of the local overlord but were policemen, paid from the tax-payer’s money.
To cure the disease, the following changes in the system are necessary:
- A tripartite system of government with a president directly elected by popular votes, with autonomous and independent executive, legislative and judicial arms of the government acting as checks and counter-checks upon each other. It is not difficult to predict the winner if there were a direct confrontation between a leader such as Imran Khan, representing the forces for change, and the current leaders of the two major political parties (or their progeny) in face-to-face TV debates preceding the presidential elections.
- A re-demarcation of the provincial boundaries along the lines of the twelve former divisions of West Pakistan, with elected governors and legislators on the same pattern as at the center. A compulsory component will need to be a local government system, which is the cradle of democracy in all truly democratic countries. Such a system was already legislated and implemented by the government of former president Parvez Musharraf. Unfortunately, the government succeeding him did away with it because they thought it would diminish their hold upon the populace.
- It is too late to abolish feudalism by a stroke of the pen as was done in India shortly after independence. Howevever, its hold can be gradually diminished by the imposition of heavy death duties and an end to benamis, as was done in the UK.
The only national leader dedicated to this kind of system change (leaving aside minor details which can be worked out by consensus) is Dr. Tahirul Qadri. If Dr. Qadri’s mission is successful, the biggest beneficiary will be Imran Khan. After being defeated by the current system in three previous elections, prior to each of which he was full of confidence about sweeping the elections, Imran Khan should know better. Major surgery is required in order to put things right in the country’s body politic and Imran Khan, along with all the other forces for change, need to align themselves with Dr. Qadri in order to attain this objective. They need to cure the disease, not the symptoms.