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A New Freedom Movement, But who will Bell the Cat?

At the first Round Table Conference in London (November 1930 – January 1931) the ailing Maulana Muhammad Ali, undivided India’s valiant freedom fighter, had declared to the British rulers: “The Mission on which I am here today is that, when I return to my motherland, the document of freedom should be in my hands. I will not go back to an enslaved country. I am prepared to face my death as an exile in an alien land which enjoys the privileges of freedom. If you do not grant freedom to my country, you will have to grant me the place for a grave in your land.”

The imperial power did not grant freedom to India at the Round Table Conference. Maulana Muhammad Ali died during his trip, on 21st February 1931, and was buried in the holy city of Jerusalem.  The sub-continent gained independence in 1947, Pakistan was created with noble ideals by the Quaid-e-Azam, but the freedom for which Maulana Muhammad Ali and a million Muslims gave their lives at the time of partition never really came to the masses in Pakistan. The white sahibs were replaced by the brown sahibs, and it was business as usual. The descendants of sardars, jagirdars and waderas, who had been allowed to treat their tenants like dirt as long as they remained loyal to the King Emperor, were left untouched. The lot of the haris (peasants) remains as dismal as before. In the words of an Urdu poet of the forties, “Numberdaar chaRhey chhati par gaali dey nit patwaari” (the numberdaars and patwaaris – village state officials – overpower us and abuse us day and night). Child labor continues unabated, not only in the factories of Sargodha and Multan, but also in the houses of the rich in Islamabad and Karachi. Education remains the privilege of the few, corruption and nepotism rule the land, and law and order has been thrown to the winds. Economic progress has remained minimal except, ironically enough, during the times of Ayub Khan and Parvez Musharraf.

It is in context that the coming together of the forces of change on the 8th of August, 2014 to observe Martyr’s Day augurs well for the establishment of true democracy in Pakistan. When Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar referred to the “privileges of freedom” enjoyed by the citizens of the foreign land, he was talking about the freedom of the man on the street to go about in peace and security, protection of his right to speedy justice, and freedom for him to advance in life on the basis of merit and merit alone. The forces for change 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 had repeatedly brought it to the brink of economic ruin and/or civil commotion in the past, necessitating military intervention or presidential action. The brutality of the ruling class of rural and urban feudal lords in recent weeks has exceeded anything which the British had ever done to crush the Indian Freedom Movement. A few days back, the electronic media showed a heart-rending footage of an old woman begging the police with folded hands that the ambulance carrying her critically-ill daughter-in-law be allowed to proceed to the hospital in Lahore, to no avail. In such instances, a policeman in a truly democratic country would have gone by the dictates of his own conscience rather than the fear of a ruthless overlord. Not so in today’s Pakistan.

Both Dr. Qadri and Imran Khan have announced noble and lofty goals, starting with strict accountability and the establishment of meritocracy, but they have not clarified the mechanism through which they expect to achieve their objectives. Both parties appear to be against the imposition of Martial Law. Imran Khan in particular is asking for something which appears to be un-doable: mid-term elections. According to the norms of parliamentary democracy, this can be done only at the behest of the leader of the house, or as the result of a successful no-confidence motion against the government in power. The chances of that happening are nil. Even if re-elections are called by some miracle, the 18th Amendment dictates that the Chief Election Commissioner would be appointed by consensus between the Treasury and the Opposition. With the mother of all mukmukas,  mis-labelled as the London Charter of  Democracy, in place, there is little chance of any results which would be favorable to Imran Khan. It’s not his turn! In his latest interview, he has suggested judicial action. But, with due respect, I feel that he should know better than to put his trust in the present judiciary.

If it had any merit, it would have taken suo moto notice of the inhuman killings in Model Town, the delay in registering the FIRs of the survivors, and the current reign of terror in Punjab.

The only way Imran Khan can get to lead the country would be through a change to a tripartite system of government, with a president elected by popular votes, and independent and autonomous executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. This would bring Imran Khan in a face-to-face confrontation with his opponents, and it is not hard to predict the winner.  Amalgamation of the legislative and executive arms of government sows the roots of corruption, not only in Pakistan, but also in neighboring India, where massive corruption led to the downfall of the Congress government and the same can be expected for the BJP, where 37% of its elected representatives have criminal charges against them.

Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s has given a plan for a system change, which he has explained in a series of lectures which can still be seen on the ARY News web site. This is the only solution to the illnesses in Pakistan’s body politic.

However, who will bell the cat? Even if the agitations are successful, a power vacuum would only create chaos and anarchy. The businesses and liabilities of the state require continuity. There is only one institution in the country which has the organization, discipline, honesty and meritocracy in its ranks to bring about a peaceful change:  the Pakistan Army. It is the only institution in the country which the general public respects and trusts. In my opinion, the Army needs to come in for a brief period, this time by public demand, with a given mandate of enforcing ruthless accountability and introducing system reforms. Without a military set-up, corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and their families will leave the country, and go away to bask in the sunshine of their looted wealth, biding their time until the next opportunity –  as they have done in the past.

Dr. Qadri has clarified that he would leave the basic structure of the constitution intact, but would insist on the strict enforcement of all its original clauses pertaining to human rights, in particular the first forty articles. Amendments required for the system change can be put before the public in a general referendum. The only fair elections in Pakistan were held under the auspices of the Army in 1970. This should be repeated for the first elections after introduction of the system reforms.

God speed and all success to Dr. Qadri and Imran Khan. The biggest beneficiary of the success of Dr. Qadri’s mission will be Imran Khan himself, who has the charisma and the popularity among the masses to assume leadership of the country after a one-on-one contest with his opponents. This would only be possible under the system proposed by Dr. Qadri, for the accomplishment of which more than twenty five innocent people have already been martyred:

Daikh Kar Rang-e-Chaman Ho Na Pareeshan Maalee

Koukab-e-Ghuncha Sey Shakhain Hain Chamakney Waalee

Khas-o-Khashaak Sey Hota Hai Gulistan Khalee
Gul Bar Andaaz Hai Khoon-e-Shuhada Kee Laalee
Rang Gardoon Ka Zara Dekh Tau Unnabee Hai
Yeh Nikaltey Huwey Suuraj Ki Ufaq Taabee Hai –  Allaama Iqbal

(Yet, let the gardener not be sad to see the garden’s plight,
For soon its branches will be gay with buds, like stars of light;

The withered leaves and weeds will pass, and all its sweepings old;
For there, again, will martyr‐blood in roses red unfold.
But look! a hint of russet hue, Brightening the eastern skies,
The glow on yon horizon’s brow, Heralds a new sunrise!)

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