Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri was right: Dr Atta-ur-Rahman's article 'A new system' (The News)
by Dr Atta-ur-Rahman
Much is being written and said about the trial of General (r) Musharraf. It is notable that the emergency declared November 3, 2007 was declared legal by the Supreme Court on November 24, 2007 and that election dates were announced soon after its imposition.
It was supposed to last for two months but was extended to a third month because of the unfortunate assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, and the elections were held in February 2008. So the drama is about a three-month period. The previous eight-year period is being ignored as it will net in many powerful persons.
Moreover placing the constitution in abeyance was not an act of treason when the act was committed in November 2007, but was declared as such under the 18th Amendment to the constitution that occurred much later, and a law cannot and should not be applied with retrospective effect. The law applicable is always the one that is prevailing at the time – not one that comes into force years later.
Our government will be well advised not to humiliate a former army chief by trying to apply justice selectively on Gen Musharraf, and not on those involved in the 1999 coup, including many judges and leading politicians. Otherwise it will be taken as an act of vendetta and not justice. Some ‘experts’ claim that we should let the judicial proceedings continue as those involved in the 1999 coup will eventually be roped in as the trial proceeds. This is nonsense. The Supreme Court cannot, on its own, prosecute anyone for high treason under Article 6 of the constitution until specific charges to this effect are brought against such persons by the government.
It is believed by some myopic senior government officials that once you make an example of General Musharraf, other generals in the future would not dare to repeat the same act. These people are living in a fool’s paradise. The present actions may trigger a martial law and this time it could be violent – as is being contemplated by many experts, including Asma Jahangir.
Some argue that the reason democracy has failed in Pakistan is because it was not given a chance to evolve and flourish due to interventions of military rule. This argument is used by the corrupt to justify their continued corruption. The military interventions were, in most cases, forced by the rampant corruption that brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy and disaster. While some may rejoice at the fact that five years of unhindered democracy had been achieved, that period was actually the biggest disaster that Pakistan ever faced.
The loot and plunder that occurred in the five years of the previous ‘democratic elected government’ led to the destruction of almost all sectors except the army. Those responsible should all have been in jail but the present government has taken little or no action against them. And now we are hell bent on destroying the army too by foolishly trying to ‘put the generals in their place’ – starting with General Musharraf. Allama Tahirul Qadri was absolutely right when he insisted on the need for electoral reforms prior to elections, starting with reforms in the Election Commission of Pakistan itself.
According to Transparency International (Pakistan) corruption of Rs8,500 billion occurred during 2008 to 2011. Corruption over five years (2008-2012) is estimated to be about Rs11,000 billion (about $110 billion), more than 60 times the amount we receive in civil and military aid from the US annually. It is a pity that our previous army chief General Kayani did not intervene to stop this rot – and allowed the country to go down the drain.
It has been demonstrated repeatedly that that the present form of democracy (that I call ‘feudocracy’ as it is in the clutches of the feudal landlords) will not function in a country where the powerful but corrupt come into parliament and the Cabinet – about 200 of our ‘honourable parliamentarians’ in the last provincial and federal governments had forged degrees.
We are the only country in the world in which even the former federal minster for education had forged his college and university degrees to get elected. He should be in jail but has cleverly switched camps to save his skin and become part of the PML-N (bravo Mr Prime Minister!).
The parliamentary system of democracy just cannot work in a country where the literacy levels are so low and where the feudal system has taken over national politics. We need to introduce a new presidential system of democracy. The elected president can then select his own team of high quality professionals as cabinet ministers who should not be from parliament. The members of parliament need to have at least a Masters degree (as is done in Iran) and should be very carefully screened for their suitability to formulate new laws as well as for their track record of excellence and integrity in their past careers.
The roles of members of parliament should then be confined to law making and oversight of the government actions, and they must not be allowed to become federal or provincial ministers. This will take away the incentive of greed that has so polluted parliament, transforming the process of elections into a dirty lucrative business for many – spend five crore and earn 100 crore later.
All those contesting for any positions should first be approved by a ‘Judicial Council of Elders’ on the basis of their prominence, honesty and competence for the positions. But who can do this? The present parliament will never agree to curtail its own powers. The only way that this can happen is through a national referendum after an interim government comes into power.
Pakistan has tremendous potential. We have about 100 million people below the age of 19 – about 56 percent of our population. Our children are among the brightest in the world. However we spend only 1.9 percent of our GDP on education – thereby shamefully placing us among the bottom seven countries of the world. As a result, about half our citizens are illiterate and of the remaining half, most can barely sign their names. This ensures the hold of the feudal landlords since the serfs under them are poor, powerless and illiterate.
We cannot make any progress unless we migrate from a low value added agricultural economy to a knowledge economy. The key to progress lies in education, science, technology, innovation/entrepreneurship and a justice system that delivers justice fairly and quickly. These are the areas that have received the lowest priority from successive governments.
The Korean transformation occurred after the takeover by General Park. Must we wait for a General Park? Or can the present government focus on socio-economic development rather than antagonising the army by applying selective justice (that appears more and more like a vendetta), and face the risk of another military coup?
The writer is the president of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and former chairman of the HEC.