Monthly Archives: March 2013

Let Us Give a Chance to Elections in Pakistan

By Akhtar Malik
29 March 2013
safe_image.phpIn his public address in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi on 17 March 2013 Dr. Tahir ul Qadri announced that his party Pakistan Awami Tehreek will not participate in the coming general elections. He vowed not only to boycott the elections but also to protest against it by arranging sit-ins (Dharnas) throughout Pakistan on the day of polling on 11 May 2013. The rationale for this decision as given by him is that no electoral reforms have been carried out, as was committed by the outgoing government to him earlier this year, to make the election process fair, free, just, impartial and clean from all corrupt practices. Dr. Tahir ul Qadri is of the opinion that nothing good can be expected from the existing unconstitutionally-structured Election Commission, which has not been empowered to introduce reforms and implement them. As per his view, the forthcoming elections are being held to protect the corrupt politicians who will be able to make their way to the parliament once again through these elections.
The stance of Dr. Tahir ul Qadri is correct and unambiguous. The way the Election Commission has framed new nomination papers and code of conduct, is nothing more than eyewash and will surely provide escape routes to the corrupt and inept candidates, who are otherwise ineligible to contest elections under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The components of this Election Commission are not geared to carry out meaningful scrutiny of candidates. It is only a revolutionary government installed with deliberate support of people that can carry out ruthless and across-the-board accountability. However the decision to boycott the elections, particularly asking the public to do the same, has its own demerits.
Dr. Tahir ul Qadri has worked very hard to inculcate awareness among people and educate them on provisions of the Constitution. Now even a common man is aware of the contents of Articles 62, 63, 218 and knows what the elected representatives are bound to deliver under Article 34 once they are elected to form the government.  Now was the time for people to come out en-mass and fill the polling booths for casting their votes in favor of clean and honest candidates. Despite corrupt practices by the traditional politicians and Election Commission overlooking these violations, a very large turnout on the day of polling can make a pleasant difference. The silent majority which hitherto-fore had been abstaining from voting can play a very decisive role in electing the new faces and better candidates. On the other hand if a large population abstains from the electoral process there is danger that the corrupt political mafia will bring their cronies to the polling stations and become victorious even with a small turnout. The decision by a large number of followers of Dr. Tahir ul Qadri to “Vote for None” will therefore damage the clean and honest candidates and indirectly help the corrupt political mafia.
The decision to boycott the elections seems to be erroneous. The protest in the form of sit-ins (Dharnas) on the day of polling is therefore not likely to create a substantial impact. This may be seen in the backdrop of the fact that collective wisdom of the people of Pakistan has already decided in favor of bringing a change through the ballot. This is the reason why people have not protested en-mass on the streets against the PPP-led government despite the worst kind of sufferings during the 5-year tenure. They were seeing a silver lining in the elections to get rid of the government. They still have a hope in the coming elections, though they may stand disappointed at the end of the day. I am of the opinion that elections must be given a chance to change the destiny of the country. A better strategy of protesting against the corrupt electoral system by Dr. Tahir ul Qadri and his followers would be to turnout at the polling stations in largest possible numbers wearing black bands on the arms, and cast their votes for the change. The followers of Dr. Tahir ul Qadri are imbued with the spirit of change and would never like to vote in favor of the corrupt candidates. But if they are motivated by their leaders to vote for the catalysts of change they can act as a force multiplier. However the people of Pakistan reserve the right to protest against the election results if they prove to be rigged.
Akhtar Malik, a freelance writer, can be reached at akhterhayatmalik@yahoo.com

 

The Concept of Sovereignty in Islam

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As per the Islamic and Quranic teachings the ultimate and absolute sovereignty is vested in Allah. His sovereignty was handed down to the Holy Prophet (SAW) in the form of manifested sovereignty (for the purpose of implementing it in social and political life of a society). In today’s world when the Muslim Umma has been divided in geographical boundaries to form various countries, this manifested sovereignty has been transferred to the people of these Muslim countries as a SACRED TRUST. This sovereignty was not transferred directly either to the states or to the governments or even to the parliaments of these countries.The people of Pakistan, where the population is over 1800 million, are now having the ownership of this sovereignty as a sacred trust. Since the population as a whole cannot possibly perform the sovereign (administrative, executive, legislative, judicial etc) functions of the state, they have to elect their representatives who perform these functions on their behalf. The people of Pakistan are thus duty-bound by the command of Allah to return His sovereignty (which was transferred to them as a sacred trust) to their representatives, who will now be the TRUSTEES of that sovereignty.Allah commands people in Quran (Aya 58 of Sura Al-Nisa):

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَأْمُرُ‌كُمْ أَن تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُم بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ نِعِمَّا يَعِظُكُم بِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرً‌ا“ No doubt Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due, and when you rule among the people, rule with justice. Excellent is that which Allah instructs you. No doubt Allah hears and sees (everything).”This Aya sets the foundation of a political system to be established in an Islamic state. People are the custodians of the sovereignty given to them as a sacred trust and they are constrained by Allah to return this trust to persons who are capable to hold this trust. Those persons (trustees) will then run the affairs of the state with justice, in accordance with the principles of Quran and Sunnah. In earlier days of Islam (during the tenure of Four Caliphs), people used to transfer this trust to the Caliphs through pledge (بیت). In today’s world of knowledge, enlightenment, awareness and democracy, this exercise can be done through voting, referendum, opinion polls or whatever system is deemed appropriate.

The relevant Articles of the Constitution of Pakistan as read in conjunction with the above mentioned command of Allah makes the social contract between the people of Pakistan and the State of Pakistan very clear. Both have their specific duties to perform and obligations to discharge.

Participating in electoral process (or any such activity that leads to transfer of sovereignty to the state through chosen persons) and casting vote in favor of persons who are ‘Trustworthy’ and ‘Truthful’ is compulsory as per Quran. Those who abstain from this process on any pretext will be willfully withholding الْأَمَانَاتِ against the explicit command of Allah. The people of Pakistan from all strata of society should be educated on these lines. This is the only way to get rid of the exploiters and looters from coming to power.
Akhtar Malik

18 March 2013

History of Soft Revolutions in Pakistan

 
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Over the past few decades the collective wisdom of the masses in Pakistan has seemingly decided in favor of a soft change instead of a bloody and violent revolution. Though it is a slow process but is likely to have deeper and more sustained effect on the society. Despite the efforts of the forces of status quo to keep the social and political indolence in place, the catalysts of change are actively heading forward with a steady pace.
The First Soft Revolution came in the shape of Freedom of Media. Media, both print and electronic, had started its efforts to break the shackles of the state restrictions during the late 1990s. Interestingly it was during the reign of a military ruler, Gen Pervez Musharaf, that the media acquired its optimum freedom. Since then media has played a vital role in creating awareness in society, analyzing the political situation, exposing the social evils of corruption, lawlessness, favoritism, apathy of the government officials and molding the public opinion in favor of a progressive, peaceful and a just social system. Though the powerful political mafia, who wants to keep the masses ignorant, is all out to coerce, intimidate and pressurize the media to get them in their favor, the media is showing commendable resilience and steadfastness in achieving its objectives. With the passage of time media is likely to be more vibrant, impartial and effective in transforming the society in to a better shape.
The Second Soft Revolution occurred in the Restoration of Independent Judiciary. The incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan, though one time a beneficiary of Gen Pervez Musharaf’s PCO and a supporter of his unconstitutional rule, asserted himself in 2006-07 by taking a pragmatic stand on issues like Steel Mill, missing persons and sugar scandal etc. His removal from the apex appointment of Chief Justice Supreme Court by Gen Pervez Musharaf led to a vigorous movement by the legal fraternity. Soon this movement swelled beyond proportions in which various political forces also joined. Their aim was to remove the President and restore the dysfunctional chief justice, who was then being seen as a symbol of independence of judiciary and justice at national level. The enforcement of emergency, suspension of constitution and arrest of judges by Gen Pervez Musharaf on 3 Nov 2007 proved as last nail in the coffin of his rule. Movement for restoration of judiciary became a popular national movement that ultimately achieved its objective when the dysfunctional chief justice along with his other companions was restored in March 2009.
Since its restoration the superior judiciary has, by and large, played its role effectively. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a sitting government was dealt with according to law, whereby even Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had to go home for not obeying the Supreme Court orders. An independent judiciary is entirely a new phenomenon in social and political environment of Pakistan, where the powers-that-be are finding it difficult to come to terms with this change. This was the reason why a large number of court orders were never implemented by the government. Despite all the limitations and handicaps, the independent judiciary is coming up well. Like media, the judiciary is also not likely to forfeit its hard earned freedom in coming days. An impartial and independent judiciary is crucial to the sustainability of democracy and progress and prosperity of the country, and it is really a big achievement.
The Third Soft Revolution that is making its headway is the Electoral Reforms Process. Since democracy is the only acceptable political system in today’s world, the elections play a pivotal role in shaping the political and social structure of a country. If the electoral system is faulty, corrupt, tilted in favor of the people with nuisance values and does not provide a level field to all the contesters- as is the case in Pakistan for the past six decades- the result will be total chaos, confusion and destruction. Without reforming the electoral system the same breed of corrupt politicians will keep coming to power again and again and the country will not see any hope of progress.
Imran Khan of PTI was the first politician in the present times to kindle this ray of hope to the hapless people of Pakistan. He provided an opportunity to the people to elect an alternate leadership that would replace the custodians of present rotten system, who are occupying the citadels of power. Dr. Tahir ul Qadri of Minhaj ul Quran International provided further impetus to this movement by launching a long march and a sit-in in Islamabad in favor of electoral reforms. Though his efforts met vehement resistance from the forces of status quo, he has been able to make deep impression in the minds of people. The people now stand well educated about various provisions of the constitution and have better knowledge about their own rights and the obligations of those who are voted to power. There is a general craving in the public for conducting meaningful elections. They do not want to do this exercise just for the sake of it and as a ‘business as usual’. That is the reason that despite intense defiance from the ruling and opposition elite, the Election Commission and Supreme Court are being obliged to comply with the aspirations of the people. However this revolution is still in progress and will see its culmination, if the next elections are conducted after requisite reforms.
Akhtar Malik
14 March 2013