Pakistan is once again at cross roads. The emergence of Minaj-al-Quran’s Tahirul Qadri has led many to take to the streets in the hope of change. As Pakistan gears up for another round of elections the country’s political class has gone into overdrive, as they prepare for the prospect of gaining parliamentary seats, thus ensuring they take full advantage of the opportunity on offer. This will allow them to protect the interests of their families, the feudal landlords and anyone else except the people.
The upcoming elections and the ensuing rhetoric needs to be placed in the correct context in order to see through the political spin and mantra for ‘change’ which is being given all much airtime.
The Musharraf Era
At the last elections in 2008 Pervez Musharraf’s party the PML(Q) lost miserably, 22 of the federal ministers which constituted a bulk of Musharraf’s cabinet all lost their seats. Corruption, incompetence and sheer nepotism dominated the whole government. Musharraf’s attempts to constantly empower his role of Presidency, though constitutional changes and then a state of emergency lost him much credibility. The Lal masjid massacre and his arrogance in the face of the lawyer’s movement as well as the escalation of war in the northern areas all made him and his cronies deeply unpopular.
The emergence of Asif Ali Zardari and the return of the PPP were not by chance, but something the US had been working on for years. Prior to becoming President of Pakistan, Zardari was groomed by Zalmay Khalilzad (Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN) to play a role in the post-Musharraf era. The New York Times reported their relationship in much detail in 2008: “Mr. Khalilzad had spoken by telephone with Mr. Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, several times a week for the past month until he was confronted about the unauthorized contacts, a senior United States official said. A senior Pakistani official said that the relationship between Mr. Khalilzad and Mr. Zardari went back several years, and that the men developed a friendship while Mr. Zardari was spending time in New York with Ms. Bhutto. Mr. Khalilzad, being a political animal, understood the value of reaching out to Pakistan’s political leadership long before the bureaucrats at the State Department realised this would be useful at a future date,” the official said. The ambassador “did not make policy or change policy, he just became an alternate channel,” the official said.
As the PPP term now nears its end, Pakistan is in a much worse state than when the PPP came to power. Corruption, nepotism and sheer incompetence in dealing with any of Pakistan problems remains the curse of successive governments. Drone attacks continued from Pakistani soil with complete complicity by the government, a point proven beyond any doubt by the Wikileaks cables.
With every politician tainted with corruption the US faces a big problem in finding any clean politicians with any scent of credibility.
The emergence of Imran Khan from the wilderness was America’s attempt to bring to the fore a leader who would bring credibility to a future government, this was executed through the army.
In early December 2011 the news international confirmed that at a PTI core committee meeting the PTI’s Punjab president confirmed the existence of a secret committee functioning to probe the background of its new entrants which include a former ISI official, a retired major general and some Intelligence Bureau staff – i.e. the army.
Tahreeq-i-Insaaf in reality is just Imran Khan and as a result he was forced to turn to established politicians who were dripping with corruption. He had to reach out to other politicians and asked them to join him to strengthen PTI, and thereby give the party a strong chance of performing well in the elections. Many notable politicians and technocrats from the Musharraf era, as well as infamous politicians from PPP and PML-N joined PTI.
All of this had a detrimental effect on his message as many wondered how independent he was after allowing many politicians into his party that previously the PTI campaigned against. By the middle of 2012, these politicians began to leave PTI as the parties chances of gaining significantly had long evaporated. The march to Waziristan was a desperate attempt to reconnect with the masses.
Tahir al Qadri
In this context Dr Tahir al Qadri has emerged on the scene. Spending the last 5 years abroad in Canada from where he leads his Minaj-al-Qur’an organisation. Qadri’s demands however have been limited to some token changes and not comprehensive change. He has called for a return to the real constitution of Pakistan and a caretaker government that would implement justice as outlined by the constitution. The last five years have seen Qadri make a number of questionable statements about Islam having no system of governance as well as Islam and democracy.
Qadri is effectively calling only for a change in personnel and the maintenance of the system which has held Pakistan hostage for over 50 years. According to Qadri, most of what he is asking for is already contained in the constitution and electoral laws, but just isn’t implemented. He denies that he is trying to end Pakistan’s democracy, “I just want to put true democracy on track,” he said.
The first weeks of 2013 has seen Qadri constantly give speeches for democracy, ridding Pakistan of corrupt politicians and saving the system. As politicians of different colures dance around democracy Qadri has merely become another player in Pakistan’s corrupt and failed democratic system. Qadri has presented no grand plan or polices but stuck to a narrow set of reforms to the countries electoral laws.
The current problem in the country is there are too many players contesting for power at this particular crossroad and each is hungry for bigger share of power. Some sort of deal will need to be struck between all the internal players, the army and the US. The announcement that Qadri and government representatives were negotiating a deal on Thursday 17 January, is to achieve this.
The Curse of Democracy
The fundamental problem with Pakistan is its political medium is dominated by dynastic families, feudal landlords and opportunist groups, individuals and politicians. Their sole aim is to get to power and enrich themselves irrespective of the consequences. When in power they legislate in a way to protect and maintain their own interests. Legislative sovereignty is the cornerstone of democracy.
The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) is a case in point, a law that granted amnesty to politicians, who were accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder and terrorism during the 1990’s. This was a deal concocted by General Musharraf and other corrupt politicians. Whilst this law was challenged by the judiciary, in effect democracy allows for whomever is elected to parliament to legislate as they see fit. It is therefore only natural politicians will legislate to benefit themselves. As many parliamentary seats are effectively owned by feudal landlords, rich families and industrialists, no amount of reform can alter this fact.
The call for a return to Pakistan’s secular constitution of old which enshrines parliament with legislative capability is nothing more than a call to maintin the status quo. The Islamic element in the countries constitution merely mentions laws should not be in conflict with Islam – thus parliamentarians can make the laws and should check themselves with Islam (which does not in reality take place anyway). This in itself fundamentally contradicts Islam as it makes man the legislator, rather than Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
Replacing democracy with fixed laws is the only solution to Pakistan, something only Islam offers. Islamic laws are enshrined in the Qur’an and the sunnah and thus there is no role for man legislating and the existence of parliament. This means all citizens would know where they stand as Islamic laws are fixed and unchangeable. The role of the ruler is to implement these fixed laws to their designated realities. This will eliminate any possilbitly of politicains using parliament to legislate to protect their own intrests. Furthermore the Majlis of the ummah with no legislative capabilities will actively hold the ruler to account upon his implementation of the laws.
Real change in Pakistan will never take place as long as the existing system remains. Any group or individual calling for change becomes part of the problem unless they call for the complete removal of the democratic system in Pakistan than mere reform or change of corrupt politicians. Pakistan should learn a lesson from the uprisings in the Middle East, it took actions outside the system, to remove the decades old political status quo and move on a path towards any true change. Whilst the Arab spring is still work in progress, what is clear is that Bilawar, Tahir al Qadri, Imran Khan, the PPP or PLM (N) – none of them are calling for real change.