Game changer or a spoiler

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Qadri seems intent on throwing a spanner in the works

The sudden and late in the day entry of a religious scholar-cum-politician Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri into the political arena – after remaining in the political wilderness for five years – with a vow to force changes in the political system before elections through agitation, is a much fancied subject of discussion in the media, political circles and the intelligentsia. While the need for changes in the political system can hardly be contested, the timing of his appearance and the mode of affecting those changes, as suggested by him, is certainly very intriguing.

Without going into and judging the authenticity of the motive behind his unceremonious appearance, and the conspiracy theories being bandied around regarding Qadri acting as an errand boy of the establishment, I will be focusing on the contents of his speech, their constitutional validity or otherwise, and the repercussions that are likely to emerge from the solutions contemplated by him to cleanse the system of its ailments. The thrust of his speech was that the political system was not being run as per the constitution and those who were elected as members of the parliament did not meet the standards set by the constitution for the eligibility of the candidates and therefore changes were required in the way the people are elected to the parliament. He extensively quoted the constitutional clauses to substantiate his viewpoint and insisted he was not aiming to undermine the constitution or have the elections postponed.

I as an anodyne observer and a student of political science honestly feel that his discourse was self-contradictory in regards to his respect for the constitution. He proposed an interim government comprising of technocrats in whose formation the military and judiciary should also have a role. Where in the constitution do these institutions have a role in deciding the formation of the interim setup? Nowhere. The proposal is therefore unconstitutional; enough to dent his credibility and claim of respecting the constitution. He further said that the political and religious forces outside the parliament should also be made part of this process. That again is against the constitution. The constitution bestows this responsibility on the government and the opposition who enjoy the mandate of the masses.

Now coming to the changes: his speech concentrated on unraveling the inadequacies of the system and the imperative to transform it but he did not spell out clearly what kind of changes were required to be made. The strategy that he unfolded to have those vaguely described changes effected was also unconstitutional to say the least. The change in the political system would require constitutional amendments with the consensus of the majority comprising the members of the parliament as enunciated by the constitution and not through agitation and coercion.

If he is genuinely concerned about the state of affairs in the country and honestly feels that he must play a role in changing the game, he should adopt a constitutional way of doing it. The elections are around the corner and he must participate in the elections and win the mandate of the people to make the changes he perceives are required to be put in place. He cannot justify his claim of having the support of the masses by simply organising a rally of two million or having four million gathered at Islamabad. Pakistan has a population of 180 million and his claim of masses’ support can only be tested through his electoral triumph.

The disruption of elections will reaffirm the authenticity of a permeating notion that the rightist and religious elements in this country have always played the role of a spoiler. The political entities supporting the strategy of Qadri also need to revisit their stance as it can portray them in dismal colours as far as their democratic credentials are concerned. The PPP and PML-N, who represent the majority of the masses in the parliament, and other smaller parties, are unanimous in their stance of holding the elections on time. Having the elections postponed, as Qadri hinted in his speech, and paralysing the functioning of the government will only play into the hands of the forces inimical to a democratic setup in the country. And God forbid if that happens, Qadri will be remembered in the history as a spoiler who played a role in shattering the dreams of the masses to tread the democratic path for realising their cherished dreams in conformity with the vision of the Quaid.

Pakistan has already suffered due to such unconstitutional undertakings and politics of agitation. The only way Pakistan can rediscover itself is to follow the constitution. Any other course will lead to yet another disaster. Qadri must realise that it is not the ends that justify the means but the means that justify the ends. If he believes he has a noble cause he must strive for its fulfillment through noble, legitimate and accepted political norms.

Democracy has been restored and saved through a very arduous and valiant struggle. No doubt all the major political forces have also contributed to this cause but bulk of the credit goes to the PPP and its leadership which has a proven history of standing against the dictatorial regimes. The anti-people and anti-democracy forces have made relentless efforts during the last four years to derail the system, but thanks to the political sagacity of the leadership of PPP and supportive role played by other political parties, including PML-N, the country is poised for a smooth transition of power through ballot for the first time.

The PPP, PML (N) and all other political parties are already running their electoral campaigns. Let the power of the ballot determine what course and what changes are needed to be adopted. Remember, even the worst kind of democracy is better than dictatorship or any other unconstitutional arrangement.

 

The writer is an academic.

2 COMMENTS

  1. 20th Amendment is clear on how to select care taker set up and how to conduct elections. MQM is signatory too. Then why is this entire cry for? MQM resisted election reform via-a-vis voter verification and delimitation with tooth and nail. And story concluded at contempt case. Point is how Allama Tahir ul Qadri’s election reform resonate with MQM’s election reform? Secondly MQM is still in power, against whom are they doing long march? Ballet should decide fate of people.

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