There is no PTI or PMLN, there is just Pakistan.

Published (Edited Version) in Express Tribune Blogs on the 23rd of August, 2014.

Imran Khan’s protest began against alleged rigging in general elections, transformed into a march and sit in against the Prime Minister, and apparently has blossomed into one of the firmest stances against status quo in the history of Pakistan.

It is not just the number of people, but the kind and class of people in his sit in that speaks for the strength of his stance. People who were never seen in political gatherings or protests. The upper middle and upper class, educated people, professionals, women and children have taken over the space that was once occupied mostly by simpletons who were nothing but just another head in the crowd.

His opponents – mostly covert proponents of status quo – are labeling his protest and demands as unconstitutional. In my own personal opinion, even if the protestors clash with law enforcement agency personnel and damage the sacred State buildings, they would still be violating less provisions of the Constitution than those violated by so called democratic constitutionalists.

Our Constitution begins with the Preamble, wherein are incorporated principles of democracy, equality, freedom, justice and rule of law.

Para 4 of the Preamble states;

“Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed.”

Para 8 states;

“Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, and association, subject to law and public morality.”

Article 25 (1) of the Constitution states;

“All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”

In practice, democracy exists merely as a popular slogan used to win support in pre election campaigns. Once elected, our representatives are not accountable to us, not till the end of their tenure. In essence democracy is the exercise of public will. Here, soon after the elections, public will does not have access to the corridors of power and Parliament. In the current political turmoil, the ruling party has not once called a meeting of its elected Parliamentarians to seek advice, or assess the sentiments of those represented by these Parliamentarians.

Freedom depends on your status and nuisance value in society.

Social and political justice is made a mockery of everyday, with the powerless having to face full force of law even in fabricated cases while the powerful get away with murders and escape registration of a case despite court orders.

Where Constitution provides for rights and duties of citizens, it also puts the government under several obligations. Obedience to the Constitution is not just a citizen’s duty, but also a government’s primary obligation.

Article 5 (2)

“Obedience to the Constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan”

Article 6 (1)

“Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate, subvert, suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.”

Should the government’s failure to transfer power to grass root level, by establishing elected local governments, be taken as a Constitutional violation, subversion of the Constitution and high treason? If the government can hide behind the cover of lame excuses, why can’t a protesting citizen justify his violation with a legitimate excuse?

The Constitution declares it mandatory, in Article 140 A, the establishment of elected local governments. Whereas there is no express provision barring peaceful protest, a political demand or marching to and from any part of the country.

Pakistan is witnessing democracy right now. Political conscience of the people against status quo. The Prime Minister, Parliament and elections are merely the tip of the iceberg. Even if inadvertent, this protest seeks to crush the iceberg. It is time to rise up and beyond political and ethnic affiliations. It is the time to evaluate and understand. It is time to apply our minds and decide where we stand. Because wherever you stand, your camp needs your support.

This is not a fight against one political party or leader anymore. This is a fight against status quo. It is beyond dwarf individuals and notions, it is for the giant that is people. Take sides, but not for vested interests or without sound reasoning. Fight not for individuals, but for the future. There is no PTI or PMLN, there is just Pakistan.

Advertisements

Can’t help it

Even if one is to believe that PMLN is on higher moral ground, one can see that its fans and spokespersons are working really hard to dig holes in that ground. Ill informed assertions, statements and questions add to the number of question marks on the party. Thanks to the fans and spokespersons, PMLN is not just questioned for its dictatorial trends but also for its competence and collective IQ.

Following are answers to just a few questions and assertions that I have come across on television and social media. I am not a spokesperson for PTI, I just can’t tolerate nonsense. I can’t help it.

There are just a few thousand people with PTI, how can they challenge a government that has the support and mandate of 18 crore people?

First, the claim made by several political parties of having the support of 18 crore people is absolutely false and frivolous.

No political party has ever bagged all the votes polled in an election.

The voter turnout has never exceeded 56 percent.

In the general elections 2013, a little over 8.6 crore voters were registered out of whom only 4.6 crores cast their vote and the rest abstained from voting. This abstinence can best be taken as a show of disinterest or no confidence in any political party.

Out of these 4.6 crores, around 1.47 crores were cast in PMLN’s favor while PTI bagged approx .75 crore votes.

So even if the unregistered population is to be ignored, PMLN got around 17 percent of total votes registered.

Therefore neither PMLN nor PTI, or any political party for that matter, has ever had the support of 18 crore awam.

Second, the fact that there are thousands of people still standing speaks of their resolve and commitment. Even if they were 500 standing strong for almost a week, the government is under obligation to address their grievance. Million or hundred, each of them is a Pakistani.

Why has PTI waken up to protest against Islamabad now, after a year of elections? If they believed the Assemblies were a result of fake votes and rigged elections, why did Imran Khan take oath from the Speaker who’s election was also allegedly rigged?

PTI did not just wake up, it has been protesting alleged rigging since the elections. PMLN may not remember it, owing to their consistent ignorance of the said protest. As for the oath, PTI is just following precedent set by the “democratic” PMLN when their ministers took oath from a “dictator”. It was claimed that the oath is being taken in the interest of democracy, while reserving the right to protest.

In PTI’s ranks sits Sheikh Rasheed, who sat with Pervez Musharraf once and with Nawaz Sharif before that. Isn’t that sufficient to show PTI’s real face and intentions?

If the history of a person who sits in PTI’s ranks is relevant in identifying their intentions. Then PMLN’s intentions can be ascertained by the many cabinet and assembly members that supported Musharraf, People’s Party or PMLQ before joining forces with them.

PTI’s demands are unpopular as all political Parties in the Assembly do not support them.

Is it really surprising that a call for a free and fair re-election is opposed by the Members of Parliament who would be unseated if this demand is met?

It is a protest against the government and assemblies. Expecting the Assembly to support the protest is like expecting PTI to start opposing its own demands.

Political Fiction

If at all there is anyone behind Qadri and Khan’s protest movement, that someone would have in his mind one of two objectives.

One being the end of Sharif regime or, as PMLN likes to call it, PMLN government, through an indirect intervention. A care taker setup taking charge of the country and holding of general elections after electoral reforms, census and adherence to other popular political demands.

Second; to build enough pressure to make the dictator style PM give up his independence and discretionary powers in local and international policy making and be prepared to take dictation from someone.

The movements would have been orchestrated in the exact same manner, only with varying outcomes. However the final outcome for the tools used to achieve these objectives would be hugely different.

In scenario one, Qadri and Imran Khan would both return successful from Islamabad as saviors of the downtrodden. Both would have some role to play in the setup replacing the Sharif regime. Imran Khan could even go on to win the next general elections, while Qadri returns to his homeland after playing a significant role in the transition phase. Both would gain much ground in political relevance and significance.

In the second scenario however, both of them would be ditched by ‘someone’ soon after gaining control of a puppet government. This would mean political murder of both these leaders. It will take them a long time to recover from this setback. But ‘someone’ may be kind enough to see them off with a parting gift to help them save face. That parting gift can be the Prime Minister’s resignation. This will ensure that both leaders return from Islamabad under the illusion and public perception of success. But in the long run they may not have any role to play in the new puppet regime. In case of a resignation, Ch. Nisar may well be the new Prime Minister, prepared to work in cooperation and collaboration with ‘someone’ who is a good friend of his. Under his leadership the Parliament will implement certain electoral reforms that will improve, not perfect, the electoral process. Pakistan may see a clear shift in its foreign policy that may include distancing itself from India and the US, and cozying up to China and Russia. Terrorism will be addressed with a firmer hand.

Between the two scenarios, the second one somehow seems more beneficial for Pakistan as well as ‘someone’. For in case of the first, I do not think ‘someone’ can rely on Qadri, for his dubious credentials and Khan, for his immaturity and tendency to be impulsive.

However, a puppet government whose strings are in your hands is far more reliable. Also opting for the second option saves Pakistan from creating a dangerous precedent of ousting a government and Parliament by use of brute public force.

But who’s to say what’s to happen. For of course ‘someone’ is not behind all this and these are just fictional words from a conspiracy theorist.

President Oh! President

Prez

Article 41 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan states;

“There shall be a President who shall be the head of the State and shall represent the unity of the Republic”

Our President fulfills that requirement. Even if he is sitting back in his sandal wood rocking chair and reading a book while listening to Surraya Khanum on an antique gramophone, while D-Chowk is charged by an electrified crowd protesting against the government that elected him, he is the President who is the head of the State representing the unity of the Republic. Silent on the critical situation prevailing in the country, he still is the head of this chaos stricken State.

According to Article 46;

The Prime Minister is under obligation to keep the President informed on all matters of internal and foreign policy. I just can’t imagine Mr. Nawaz Sharif visiting the Presidency or even calling the President to inform him on how he plans to deal with the ongoing rallies and protests. He may have informed his sons – or even his butler – on matters of internal policy more than he did the President. Seeking his advice is absolutely out of the question as not even the Constitution provides for any such consultation.

Article 48 (1) states:

“In exercise of his functions, the President shall act on and in accordance with the advice of the cabinet or the Prime Minister…”

Meaning thereby that in all of his functions, the President is obliged, and it is mandatory for him, to adhere to the advice given to him by the Prime Minister or his cabinet. So he doesn’t need to think much anyways. For even if he does think once in a while and asks the PM or cabinet to reconsider, he is still bound to act on their advice after such reconsideration.

This makes me wonder if Article 46 has any practical implication at all. Even if the Prime Minister takes the trouble to inform the President on his internal or foreign policy, it would be a waste of time as there is no role of the President in altering such policy and decisions are to be made by the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

So what is the role of our President in the current crisis?

Practically none. It would have been just as effective and practicable if the Parliament had elected a lamp to be our President. The contribution would be the same, only less costly to the national exchequer and the lamp would not have come to see the Prime Minister off to his car on the rare occasion when he visited.

So the few of you who are looking for the President, don’t. You don’t need to care about him, and apparently he doesn’t need to care about you.

Time for an Intervention??

 

The assertion that Imran Khan suddenly woke up to the Parliament’s illegitimacy after a year of general elections is baseless, false and speaks of the incompetence and inability of PMLN spokespersons to defend their own party. In his first press conference after the elections, Khan said that PTI will accept the results, but not rigging. Since then he has been protesting against alleged rigging in the elections. He has never asked for a re-election or Prime Minister’s resignation until very recently. All he asked for in the beginning were electoral reforms, and investigation into his allegations. The government’s complete ignorance of Khan’s protest within and outside of the Parliament depicts a very non-democratic mindset and attitude of the ruling party.

Once a party wins the elections and comes to power, it should not deem itself beyond accountability or question for five whole years. The government should be responsible enough to listen to each and every grievance of its people and respond accordingly. But this government waited till the last minute, and the committee it has now formed for negotiating with Imran Khan is as good as finding your umbrella after the rain has turned into a hailstorm.

The irresponsibility and callousness shown by the government is unforgiveable. Our legal system doesn’t provide for much relief either. Had Khan gone for exposing each and every instance of rigging through courts, it may have taken longer than five years.

So in my opinion it is fair to say that Imran Khan was cornered into making a desperate decision. His allegations aren’t all wrong. For instance I agree there is no democracy in this country, no justice, no rule of law, no supremacy of the constitution or the parliament. I agree it is more or less the rule of one family; a monarchy more than a democracy.

Then why is Khan being forced to abide by the constitution and protect its sanctity, when he is out to protest violations and desecration of that very constitution?

Why is Imran Khan being called a threat to a democracy that does not exist?

Imran is justified in his desperate decision, but he may not have chosen the best option available. As a law student and a student of politics I cannot agree with the call for marching on the Parliament and Prime Minister’s house in order to oust a government. The precedent that this move promises to set, is bound to be misused in the future by people with intentions that may be a lot worse than Imran’s naya Pakistan.

I am not sure how many people are there at PTI’s dharna. Between PTI’s claim of three hundred thousands and other estimates of forty to fifty thousands, it is safe to assume that there may be one to two hundred thousand people there. That is a large crowd indeed, but if the PMLN is ousted by means of a large crowd, whose to stop the party from gathering an equal or larger number of their supporters at Islamabad against their ousting? What then? Who will decide if these “million” people are less significant and relevant than the million that came here to throw the Prime Minister out?

Or even worse, what if two or three years down the road, a “religious” organization or party brings a huge crowd to Islamabad and threatens to march on the Parliament and Imran Khan’s PM secretariat for the establishment of a caliphate or any other demand that a majority of Pakistanis may not agree to?

I do not doubt Imran Khan’s intentions, capability may be, but not his sincerity and intentions. But that’s what scares me more. If Khan does become the Prime Minister and begins to follow a Pakistan centered agenda with no adherence to any foreign design against Pakistan, then those foreign powers may look to get him out of the power corridors. And am afraid they may use this very precedent set by Khan, against him. It has already been done in Syria and Egypt, we are just introducing it in Pakistan.

So what alternative does Khan have?

Clearly the chances of better sense prevailing from government’s side are getting bleaker by the day. Khan may have to make a sacrifice/compromise in the interest of Pakistan. He does not need to commit political suicide, but he has made a successful show of force and conveyed to the government and local and foreign media that he has the ability to gather a large crowd at Islamabad. It would not be disastrous to back off a bit and give the government a little space to breathe and see if the oxygen can get to their brains and do any good.

Otherwise, I believe it is time for an intervention. Probably the most needed and justified intervention of Pakistan’s history. I do not want the Army to come marching in, they have finally found their place and they should stay in it. It is the job of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of Pakistan to step in and stop this crisis from becoming a disaster.

 

 

 

Khan’s Speech, Protest and Result.

So this is what I got from the “most important speech” of Mr. Imran Khan’s life.

1. He announced/launched a civil disobedience movement. Specifically asking followers not to pay bills and taxes.

2. He gave the government (PM to be specific) two days to resign.

3. In case of no resignations he warned of a march on the Parliament and PM house.

              So the civil disobedience movement is announced for two days? Followers shall not pay utility bills (none of which will be due in two days) or taxes (due date for which is 30th September)? At least there is an inherent assurance that the entire population will adhere to his call, without even having to do, or abstain from doing, anything.

              After 48 hours, if the PM does not comply, will civilians attack the Parliament and forcefully throw out elected (no matter how controversially) Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister?

            If you have planned to give the government a two day deadline, why in the world would you announce a civil disobedience movement?

              I don’t think I need to comment on the absurdity of his “most important” speech any further. But I do know that Imran Khan is pretty confident that the battle is already won. His body language and inability to hide his expressions, that portray excitement, are pretty obvious. It may be for reasons of the “referee’s” assurance that the Supreme Court will intervene within these two days and the intervention will result in the Government being sent home, Sharif family’s accountability, a care taker setup, electoral reforms and general elections.

             I do however believe that I will not be able to judge the success of this protest on basis of its outcome, as its outcome will most probably be owing to a “divine” intervention. Otherwise a sit in where the leader comes and goes at his convenience and launching of a civil disobedience movement, stretching over an insignificant 48 hours, is enough to gauge the political maturity and acumen of this protest.

          Now then, if the Judiciary does make the spontaneous – or pre planned – intervention and the Government is sent packing by the Supreme Court, which by the way is free from any PCO pollutant, then this soft coup will be far more legitimate than that of 1999. I cannot agree with the precedent being set, but I do appreciate the efforts put in to give it a legitimate face.

           I feel that this time around the PMLN leadership might not get the helping (foreign) hand. They may have to face the music. As for Mr. Khan, he may well be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, unless the elections keep moving away. And if Mr. Khan is to be the next PM, I sincerely hope for his sake, for his followers’, and for the sake of Pakistan that he is a politically mature person by then. Regardless of my reservations as regards his politics, I do know that he is the last hope for so many. I do not want to see those hopes being shattered once again, for they may never be alive again after that.

God Bless Pakistan!!

The Azaadi and Inqilaab Rolls

Corruption, immorality, indiscipline, lack of ethics and empathy, lust for power and money, incompetence, nepotism are just few of the many foul ingredients that make a rotten meal. A meal that has been fed to Pakistan for past 68 years. Pakistan is sick, has been for a long time, and now the sickness is getting worse. There are parts of its body that are more infected than others, there are more than one kinds of infection and they are far from being contained.

We Pakistanis are getting desperate for a change, a positive change in fact. Our desperation motivates us to cling on to any and all signs of hope. Be it in the form of a religious scholar – his words not mine – turned revolutionist, or a sportsman and philanthropist turned politician. I don’t care if Imran Khan’s or Qadri’s rallies have a million participants or a thousand, for every one of them is as Pakistani as our Prime Minister, maybe even more than the PM. I can’t be sure of the intentions of these two leaders, but am sure that a majority of their followers are only motivated by the hope of a better Pakistan. I am in complete agreement over the assertion that democracy does not exist in Pakistan. I am even skeptical of the correctness of prescribing democracy as a medicine to cure Pakistan’s sickness. Even if it were the correct prescription, the current state of democracy is quite similar to a fake medicine. I wonder if we can call this a democracy in the absence of local governments – declared mandatory by the Constitution, and an integral part of any democratic system. Having said that, I am afraid the form of protest adopted to allegedly rid our democracy of its shortcomings is as polluted as our democratic system.

A march of the masses to Islamabad and then sit in to force the government to take immediate effective measures are conceptually the most effective forms of protest. No disagreement there. But are they actually marches?

A long march, as a political concept, came into being in 1934 by Mao Zedong’s long march (The Long March) that spread over a year and covered a distance of almost 6000 miles. The march began with around a hundred thousand participants and ended with only less than twenty thousands. Many perished and those who survived managed to bring a significant change in China, pros and cons of that change are not under debate here.

The trend of calling your protest a long march is becoming more and more popular. Nwaz Sharif’s march for restoration of judiciary, last year’s long march of Tahir ul Qadri or this week’s Azadi and Inqilab marches are nowhere near, in comparison, the Long March. First off when you travel in vehicles it is not a march but a roll. So the Azaadi and Inqilaab rolls may not be able to fetch results similar to Mao’s March, if not for the ‘divine’ intervention.

The bullet proof container was invented by the People’s Party when Muhtrama Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan before the 2008 general elections. She was justified for taking the security measures, so are Imran and Qadri. But when a leader separates himself from his followers, his leadership is compromised. When you make the people feel that your life is more important than theirs, you ought not use words like revolution. When you ask your followers not to worry for their lives for you are prepared to sacrifice your own, you ought not travel among them yet surrounded by security personnel and in a bullet proof container while they travel with you unprotected and exposed to any terrorist attack. I am not saying Qadri or Imran should not value their lives, am just saying that they should not try to create a perception that they do not. If you are prepared to sacrifice your life and the lives of your followers for a ‘greater cause’, then be as vulnerable as they are to death. Because if you actually want to bring a system of equality then you must show, by your actions, that the value of your life is not more than that of a common man.

I do not think that the Azaadi and Inqilaab rolls will bring any change without an intervention by the establishment, for such intervention will compensate for the shortcomings in their polluted protests. Nor am I very hopeful that either of them can bring the change that they promise. The primary ingredient of a just society is equality. If you do not believe in equality, you cannot promise it. Equality, in its essence, is the equality of the value of our lives.