VIEW: Dr Qadri: his agenda and relevance —Zafar Aziz Chaudary
Why a crusader, with no political credentials, should sky-drop one day, attract huge crowds, sway the masses with a draconian plan and threaten a march on the capitol?
Dr Tahirul Qadri may be
forgotten in due course of time, but he would certainly remain a hot topic until January 14, 2013. His disappearance from Pakistan for a long time, his arrival at this critical juncture and his sudden awakening to the weaknesses of electoral laws when the general election is already on the cards, are some of the mysteries that too would be unravelled as time goes by. However, at present what can be said with certainty is the import of his address made on December 23 in the huge rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan.
In the manner of an astute lawyer, Dr Qadri made reference to the Constitution of Pakistan by verbally quoting Articles 3, 9, 37, 38, 40, 218 (clause 3), 62, and 254, and drew an inference that the electoral laws are defective. A bare reading of these articles would reveal that none of the quoted articles has anything to do with the electoral laws. These provisions of the constitution generally relate to elimination of exploitation, personal security of people, promotion of social justice and qualifications of members of parliament. Article 254 saves the acts if not done within the prescribed limit fixed by the constitution, while clause (3) of Article 218 requires the Election Commission to conduct the election honestly and fairly ensuring that corrupt practices are guarded against. The only relevant Article dealing with electoral laws is Article 222, which Dr Qadri wilfully failed to quote. It empowers parliament to make necessary laws to ensure the just and orderly holding of elections (and the electoral laws on all these points enumerated in the Article have been accordingly legislated). This was probably done by him because this Article enjoined parliament rather than an individual to make such laws whereas he wanted to bypass parliament in his present crusade by putting up a ‘parliament of the people’ as a result of his long march.
Since the thrust of Dr Qadri’s address was the rectification of electoral laws before the forthcoming elections, the only logical course for him was to refer to the legislated provisions in the current electoral enactments. This would be to indicate what provisions needed to be changed in the statute book to send in members who, according to him, would be the true representatives of the downtrodden people instead of the jagirdars and privileged sections of society. Moreover, his sweeping rejection of a caretaker set-up yet to be established was, to say the least, presumptuous and uncalled for. His intentions to take the army as well as the judiciary on board while formulating the caretaker government is another draconian move that is against the democratic norms rooted in the doctrine of the separation of powers. Does he mean that the army generals and the judges of the Supreme Court should sit together to form this interim setup whose only aim is nothing more than holding a free and fair election? In fact, Dr Qadri was neither clear in his concept, nor in his methodology in putting his dreams into practice. What was clear to any of his discerning audience was that he wanted to throw a spanner in the way of elections for which any pretext was good enough, which was sufficient to raise as much dust as possible to confuse and confound the public and to derail the country from its democratic course. Allowing only 18 days to the government to change all laws and at the same time bringing the present parliament and its members into ridicule (through whom such a change is possible) makes a complete farce of his thesis.
But the bigger question still awaits us. Why a crusader with no political credentials, preferring to live in a foreign country of which he has also acquired nationality, should sky-drop one day, attract huge crowds, sway the masses with a draconian plan and threaten a march on the capitol? This is a question that each one of us should give serious thought to. The current regime, which has brought the state of affairs to this pass, must ponder over its performance to know why it has failed to deliver. If the people had the slightest trust in the government, such a thing should not have happened. The people are so deeply disappointed in the working of this government that they would prefer to be led by a cleric (or for that matter any military general or a civilian) than by any of the political players of the ruling elite. The people have lost all patience with the present government whom they regard as a curse, and apparently, they would not even wait for the elections, which are around the corner. This must give pause to this and the succeeding government to make necessary amendments to their policies to make themselves acceptable to the people to whom they are ultimately answerable. And this, if nothing else, makes Dr Qadri relevant to the spirit of the time, notwithstanding the mystery surrounding his appearance and his eccentric agenda.
The writer is a former member of the Provincial Civil Service and can be reached at email@example.com