Ever since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has suffered a great deal at the hands of the flawed electoral system, which allow few families to make their way to parliament and deprive the mass majority of their fundamental rights. This group of elites is the actual beneficiary of the system and hence protects the system from any possible transformation or reforms. This symbiosis of the elites and the electoral system is the most damaging relation of concern. Adding to the root causes, despite being naturally enriched with enormous resources, Pakistan remained unsuccessful to capitalize on them.
Quoting from the special report, sources from FIA, FBA, State Bank of Pakistan and NADRA confirm that there are claims of approximately 800 billion against the candidates involved in financial irregularities and corruption.
The ineffective scrutinization of candidates, political mingling in the appointment of members of the Election Commission and a weak accountability process has allowed the corrupt mafia to retain a strong hold on the governing bodies. It is this “symbiotic relationship”, which has paralyzed the state institutions to fulfill their responsibilities. Similarly, political penetration has seeped deep into the judicial system making it all-out corrupt, leaving no possibility for progressive reforms. Looking closely at the challenges faced by Pakistan, there are no two opinions on the matter that if strict accountability and scrutiny is ensured, a merit-based selection of candidates will be ensured. Therefore making, capable, spirited people end up at the forefront, who will then deal with the challenges of Pakistan and lead the country in a progressive direction.
Brotherhood of PAT and PTI
Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), founded on May 25th, 1989 and April 25th, 1996 respectively, strongly rejected the system and vowed to get the country rid of the status-quo with an agenda to reform the country. Both the parties took part in 2002 general elections and won a single seat each, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, Patron-in-chief of PAT, won a seat from Lahore and Imran Khan, Chairman of PTI from Mianwali. Both remained string critics of the political system which they deemed corrupt, inefficient, and morally bereft of any of the founding principles of Pakistan.
Read more: A conversation with Dr. Tahir ul Qadri
In protest against the then President and Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan General Pervaiz Musharaf wearing two caps, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri resigned from the parliament issuing an eighty-five pages long resignation letter which was presented as a national document in the National Assembly. This lengthy resignation letter exposed the real face of the corrupt political system and the symbiotic relationship of the corrupt elite which hinders any possibility of reforming the system from inside. Following his resignation, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri gave his workers and chapters of his party the target of the mass awareness campaign and settled abroad to resume his research work. Imran Khan remained part of the assembly and began a grassroots campaign to raise an awareness regarding his political party.
Showing their distrust in the electoral process and its impartiality, both PAT, and PTI refrained to participate in the general election of 2008 which led Pakistan’s strong political force Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to form the government. During PPP’s ruling tenure of five years, both PTI and PAT launched mass awareness movements and made people aware of their rights exposing the damaging symbiotic relationship of the corrupt elite with the system.
The mammoth Jalsa on December 23, 2012, at Minar-e-Pakistan by PAT holds great significance in the long movement of public awareness and electoral reforms in Pakistan. Not only was the massive number of supporters an eye-catching figure about this jalsa, but the wave of constitutional awareness that sprouted out since then shaped the later course of history in Pakistan’s political landscape.
In an attempt of spreading awareness, Dr. Qadri made people not only aware of their fundamental rights as per the constitution of Pakistan but forced even a layman to learn about Article 62 and 63 of the constitution of Pakistan, i.e. regarding the merits for the qualification and disqualification of the electable.
It is unfortunate than Imran Khan, who was once an icon of a reformer and a strong voice against the system has disappointed the people with his duplicity in shaking hands with the system and speaking against it, side by side.
With reference to Article’s 3, 37, 38 and 218 of the constitution, he made lawful procedure of holding the elections and its constitutional requirements the gist of his speech. After appraising the root cause of the problem i.e. the flawed electoral system, he suggested solutions. He took examples from the successful experiment of Italy, when the European Court of Justice or ECJ took notice of the corruption scandal in Italy and dismissed its government by signing the Treaty on Stability Coordination and Governance. An interim government was installed and within one year of remarkable performances, economic and other major challenges faced by Italy were overcome ultimately holding free & fair elections.
He quoted such a model as a precedence to be followed so that the system gets back on track and this democratic idea would save the state from becoming another Middle Eastern model. He announced a Long March to the country’s capital, Islamabad to exert public pressure in installing the radical electoral reforms before the country enters into another election process which was scheduled to take place in 2013.
He demanded free and fair elections in which the candidates must be strictly scrutinized as per Article 62 & 63 of the constitution ,reconstitution of the Election Commission which he declared was formed unconstitutionally and dissolution of government in accordance with his belief in holding impartial elections to be crucial. He invited Imran Khan to join him looking at their shared, common struggle against the system. However, Imran Khan missed the golden opportunity to topple down the system he had always voiced against. Imran Khan responded with the words that he believed in bringing change through “ballots” and not through “street demonstrations.” Dr. Qadri signed a declaration with the PPP government and moved his plea to reconstitute ECP in the Supreme Court of Pakistan which was met with rejection.
2013 elections; free and fair?
PAT launched “vote for none” campaign countrywide and even staged a sit-in on the election day to demonstrate its rejection of the electoral system. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), a leading political force, won elections through massive rigging which Dr. Qadri was forecasting before elections. Imran Khan realized his mistake of not joining Dr. Qadri in the Long March regretting that he embraced this system. He accepted his mistake on several occasions especially on the floor of the parliament, where he admitted not joining PAT for electoral reforms turned out to be a wrong decision.
Go Nawaz Go, the ultimate slogan
In June 2014, PMLN government launched an illegal operation to remove the legally placed barriers outside the residence of Dr. Tahir ul Qadri and PAT’s secretariat which led up to clashes between police forces and PAT workers, resulting in brutal killings of 14 PAT workers and more than a hundred people getting injured in the incident. This incident added insult to injury with regard to the relationship between the government and PAT. Due to the strong political hold of the ruling party, the original masterminds and perpetrators of the killings, even an FIR was not lodged against them. To demand justice for the martyrs of that Model Town Incident, Dr. Qadri led Inqilab March to Islamabad accompanied with more public rallying.
Meanwhile, Imran Khan too led Insaf March on the same date to Islamabad against the rigged elections of 2013. This joint venture had a common slogan “Go Nawaz Go” and was the strongest manifestation of public outrage against the ruling mafia. Both the leaders pulled off a great number on roads to bring Sharif’s dynasty down. Unfortunately the prior allegations against Nawaz Sharif, time was later ______in the legendary Panama case against Nawaz Sharif, declaring him disqualified in violation of the repeatedly voiced Articles 62 and 63 by Dr. Qadri in 2012. Imran Khan played a central role in ousting the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The torch bearer’s agenda
Imran Khan remained part of the assembly and began a grassroots campaign to raise an awareness regarding his political party.
Looking at the current situation of Pakistan entering into elections’ year, the need to bring electoral reforms have surfaced more than ever. After having all the hue and cry, in street demonstrations and public awareness campaigns, now the people are looking forward to both, Dr. Qadri and Imran Khan, the torch bearers of “Reforms agenda”. It is unfortunate than Imran Khan, who was once an icon of a reformer and a strong voice against the system has disappointed the people with his duplicity in shaking hands with the system and speaking against it, side by side.
It is a striking fact that the parliamentary committee in which all the nominated political parties were included, made amendments in the nomination papers of the candidates and excluded the provisions related to Articles 62 and 63 unanimously. It is disappointing that PTI was it fact, part of this criminal elimination of the sections of the nomination paper and set forth a stage to carry out the worst elections in the history of Pakistan. Also removing the ceremonial accountability check of the contesting candidates.
Moreover, the corrupt mafia, Imran Khan and his party, who they’ve been fighting against all along, have now been welcomed in the party and are granted party tickets. In the words of haste makes waste, PTI gave a pragmatic demonstration by prioritizing giving tickets to the winning horses instead of the party workers who have long been the companions of the movement. Many such voices of disapproval against this striking shift have been raised from within the party. However, all in vain.
Dr. Tahir ul Qadri has announced not to participate in the general elections due to the necessary reforms not being made in the upcoming electoral process. While announcing his decision in a press conference, Dr. Tahir ul Qadri pointed out all the loopholes and weaknesses of the system which are still there despite great uproar from the public and political movements.
He stated that in the last few years, there was much hue and cry in the name of accountability but not a single person had been punished to this date. He further stated that on 1070 seats of National and Provincial Assembly, 21000 candidates submitted the nomination papers, out of which more than 2700 people have been qualified, including those people who have been of money laundering, human smuggling, corruption and even rape. Quoting from the special report, sources from FIA, FBA, State Bank of Pakistan and NADRA confirm that there are claims of approximately 800 billion against the candidates involved in financial irregularities and corruption.
Walk the talk
He strongly criticized PTI (without naming it) critiquing on, “electable being the need”. He questioned that if the electable were the need then why all the bugle call. What was the use of the public demonstrations because this was the same excuse as the other parties in their defense. He stated that he’s witnessing all the corrupt mafia, holding seats in the National Assembly once again under new tags and parties. The crisis will not be mitigated rather an increase is expected. This is in reference to those criminals and looters who will be strengthened and the weakening of the masses will be exacerbated.
In a nutshell, the elongated history of resistance against the system reflects that Dr. Tahir ul Qadri stands firm on his stance against the system and to bring reforms in the country’s electoral process. Remaining a strong voice till dated today, he isn’t the one to make any compromises. There is an urgent need to bring reforms in the process before general elections which are scheduled to take place on 25th of July, 2018. Thus, the only light at the end of the tunnel is that the forces which are struggling to achieve this must continue to strive until the purpose is achieved.
Jaweria Waheed is a graduate in International Relations from Kinnaird College. She is a member of the Editorial Board for the magazine ‘Voice of Students’ and has been a blogger with media organizations ARY News & Dunya News, Pakistan. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.