People vying for another change
01 January, 2013
By Asif Haroon Raja
The people got disillusioned with democracy run by politicians from 1988 to 1999 because of the lackadaisical performance of the two mainstream political parties, each having two turns. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif instead of concentrating towards welfare of the people consumed their energies in debasing each other and in corrupt practices. As a consequence to their vindictive and anti-people politics, their tenures got restricted to two to three years. The people got so fed up of the unprincipled politicians that they welcomed Gen Pervez Musharraf when he seized power on October 12, 1999 through a bloodless coup. PPP Jayalas distributed sweets and Benazir offered to cooperate with the military dictator. None mourned the illegal booting out of democratically elected regime of Nawaz that had gained power with two-thirds majority in February 1997 and had the honor of making Pakistan 7th nuclear state and only one in the Muslim world. No protests were launched when Nawaz was awarded life sentence.
Musharraf made a good start under his well-conceived seven point program but started to drift when he held a farcical presidential referendum to get himself elected. He then carved out a King's Party consisting of turncoats from PML-N and PPP and ensured its success through manipulation in 2002 elections. His decision to fight the US dictated war on terror after 9/11, acceptance of all the seven demands of Washington and persecution of Islamists were castigated by the religious right and conservatives. However, it was MMA which got him elected through the act of parliament in 2004 after passing 17th amendment in the constitution. Since Musharraf held all the controls, he managed to ensure good governance and pushed forward his reform and development programs.
As all economic indicators moved upwards from negative to positive and growth jumped to 7%, Musharraf ill-advised by his ambitious advisers locked horns with Chief Justice in March 2007, which made him unpopular and paved the way for his downfall. It was during his downhill journey in which he committed major mistakes like imposing emergency, substituting constitution with provisional constitutional order and sacking 60 judges of higher courts. His worst mistake was issuance of black law of NRO on 5 October 2007 which enabled exiled PPP leadership to return to Pakistan duly cleansed of all sins committed earlier and taking part in elections. Likewise large number of MQM leaders and activists were absolved of their crimes. PPP repaid the debt by helping Musharraf to get elected as president till 2013.
Heat of lawyer's movement together with civil society and media forced him to remove his second skin and handover the baton of Army to Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in November 2007. Despite holding elections in February 2008 and letting the three liberal parties of his choice to enter corridors of power, he had to vacate his President's seat in August 2008 to save himself from getting impeached. He was allowed to go in exile despite the fact that he was accused of killing Nawab Akbar Bugti and possibly having a hand in Benazir's murder.
The PPP led regime under Yusaf Raza Gilani that came to power in March 2008 was warmly greeted by the people. They gladly welcomed Zardari as President. They overlooked PPP under Benazir twice letting them down and corruption scandals of Zardari. PPP leaders remaining in wilderness since 1997, undergoing vicious media and judicial trial, signing charter of democracy, bearing the loss of their revered leader Benazir, and Zardari languishing in jail for a very long time, the people gullibly thought that Zardari would be a transformed man. Alas! All their hopes and aspirations shattered when to their utter bewilderment they saw the rulers looting and plundering the national wealth with both hands. Good governance, merit and morality were not their cup of tea. Nepotism, cronyism and corruption scaled new heights. Their only concern was how to complete their five-year tenure and to fill up their coffers to the brim.
Politics of reconciliation pursued by PPP to save the looted wealth of its top leaders and to multiply their wealth converted to policy of defiance and confrontation with the judiciary. This change came in the wake judicial activism and PML-N giving up its friendly opposition stance and pressing the regime to accept the Supreme Court ruling against PM Gilani. The PM faced contempt of court charge for not writing a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen money laundering cases against President Zardari. Gilani asserted that since the President enjoyed immunity under Article 198, he couldn't possibly violate the constitution and get convicted under Article-6. He was unceremoniously booted out but replaced by Raja Pervez Ashraf notorious for Rental Power Plant scam and responsible for energy crisis.
Five-year misrule of PPP-ANP-MQM coalition has left the people aghast. They had never before seen such parasitic rulers indulging in massive corruption, devoid of moral turpitude and professional competence running the country. Callousness and insensitivity of the leechlike legislators and their incompetent favorites holding key appointments, averse to reforms and to stem the downslide shocked the people.
Growth rate slipping to 2.2 %, investments drying up, ever rising account deficit, foreign and domestic debts growing at an alarming high rate because of excessive borrowing from local banks, wasteful expenditures and lavishness, imports overshadowing exports, depleting foreign exchange reserves, daily consummation of Rupees eight billion in corruption (total corruption from 2008-2011 coming to Rs 2,765 billion), gas and electricity thefts, state owned enterprises like PIA, railway, PSO, Steel Mill, SSGC, SNGC eating away Rs. 150-300 billion per annum, Rupee getting devalued, rulers protecting the accused involved in mega corruption scandals and hounding honest officials, rulers defying laws, all these have contributed to high inflation, price spiral, unemployment, increase in poverty. Above all, futile war on terror has consumed $70 billion. Lawlessness, rising terrorism and the politicized police in league with the criminals have made life and property of a common man insecure.
Resentment against dishonest leaders chipping the foundations of democracy and the country has intensified. Fed up of the ruling coalition, people are making comparison of the eight-year rule of Gen Musharraf with five-year democratic rule. It boggles their minds to note that during the reviled military rule, economy was strong, state-owned enterprises were in profit, Rupee was stable, inflation and prices of daily commodities were within reasonable limits, investments were coming in, stock exchange was bullish, power and gas outages were minimal, developments were taking place in all provinces including Balochistan, industries were running and foreign exchange reserves were steadily increasing and drone strikes were rare. All this has been rolled back in no time by the democratically elected leaders who had promised moon to the people during election campaign. The people have got so thoroughly disenchanted with the leaders they had elected with high hopes that they are now vying for return of Mush era.
Widespread dissatisfaction of the people gave space to Tehrik-e-Insaf (TI) under Imran Khan to emerge as a third force and challenge the rotten status quo. People are gravitating towards him in large numbers since he boldly lambasts the leadership of two mainstream parties terming them as chips of the same block and promises to bring a real change. He strongly feels that but for collusion of PML-N, the PPP couldn't have sucked the blood of the nation for five years. Taking advantage of the desolation of the people, Dr. Tahirul Qadri has also stepped in with his agenda of reforming the electoral system. He wants caretaker government acceptable to all stakeholders inside and outside the National Assembly including Army and judiciary to be set up by 10 January 2013, or else he will undertake a four million march to Islamabad. Awami Tehrik-TI-MQM alliance is in the offing on which I will write separately.
The writer is a freelance columnist and a defence analyst.