The News: Change by Dr Farrukh Saleem
Dr Farrukh Saleem
The mother of all questions? Islamabad’s ‘million-man march’ can be broken down into two: the leader and the followers. A lot has been said about the leader but not much about the followers. The mother of all questions is: Why did tens of thousands of Pakistanis spend four nights under freezing open skies of Islamabad?
How did Imran Khan manage to gather such a large crowd on October 30, 2012? How did Dr Tahirul Qadri manage to gather such a large crowd on December 23, 2012? And, how did Dr Tahirul Qadri manage to keep tens of thousands for four wintry nights in the open? In each one of the above cases my focus is not on the leader but the tens of thousands of Pakistanis who undertook the effort to be present in those gatherings.
Why was there a Tahrir Square? Yes, Hosni Mubarak was a dictator for 30 long years. But why wasn’t there a Tahrir Square in Singapore? After all, Lee Kuan Yew was a dictator who lasted 31 long years. Why wasn’t there a Tahrir Square in Malaysia? After all, Mahathir Mohamad, although elected via five consecutive rather controversial elections, ruled as a dictator for 22 long years. Answer: A Tahrir Square takes place only in states where there is a huge gap between the priorities of the rulers and the needs of the ruled (whether the rulers are elected or not is irrelevant). Why did tens of thousands of Pakistanis spend four nights under freezing open skies of Islamabad? How did Imran Khan manage to gather such a large crowd on October 30? How did Dr Tahirul Qadri manage to gather such a large crowd on December 23? Answer: Pakistanis yearn for a change.
After 65 years of experimenting with different models of governance there now is a consensus on democracy as the model of governance. But an electoral doctrine under which a federal minister can keep 51 vehicles for his personal use needs to be changed. A political doctrine under which the prime minister can divert Rs50 billion from other developmental projects to his own discretionary fund needs to be changed. And, an economic doctrine under which PIA loses Rs70 million a day, every day of the year, needs to be changed.
Just ask any Pakistani, between Khyber and Karachi, these six questions: Is Pakistan heading in the right direction? Would the assemblies that will be formed after Election 2013 be any different from past assemblies? Do we as a nation want to continue with a political doctrine that allows a minister in the federal cabinet to keep 51 official vehicles for his use? Do we as a nation want to continue with an electoral doctrine that allows the prime minister to divert Rs50 billion from development projects to his discretionary fund just before a general election? Do we as a nation want an economic doctrine that allows PIA to loose Rs70 million a day, every day of the year? Do we want an electoral doctrine that allows the chief minister of Balochistan to disburse Rs300 million to each MPA just before elections?
Why can’t the ruling class read the writing on the wall? Lo and behold, we can amend the constitution in a day then why can’t we have electoral reforms before the elections that are still months away?
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @saleemfarrukh