The Pied Piper of Hamelin may have led the children to a place unknown never to come back. Our own only led them to Islamabad and they all came back. And of course ours was more considerate and took both children and their elders. The Hamelin guy wore tights and bright, multi-colored clothes. Lahore’s sported a flowing, embellished robe and an equally enchanting cap. While the former walked, the latter was driven in a bullet proof SUV.
Times have indeed changed. Tahir ul Qadri (TuQ) brought to life a legend from the Middle Ages. The Pied Piper with a beard spawned a spectacle and we all swayed to his revolutionary tune. So what was it anyway? A farce enacted by a delusional academic or a meticulously choreographed ballet by the powers that be. A threat to the flailing Democracy or a messiah responding to the ground swell of discontent?
Let’s agree on few things. TuQ did manage to gather quite a crowd and this was no rent a crowd thing. There were women, girls and kids of all ages imbued with the belief that they were marching for a great cause. By all accounts there were no less than 50,000 who marched to his tune braving the biting cold for three days and three nights. Give the credit where it is due.
guy strikes like a bolt from the blue, manages to rally people, media around to drink from his revolution potion, holds the political ilk breathless and finally calls off the March singing victory. If it was an election stunt, then TuQ or his handlers masterminded it beautifully. If it was simply a call to turn the tables on the status quo, then many a heart did skip the beat buying happily the conviction and fervor of his rants.
That he made many among us realize the futility of an electoral system that unfailingly fails to weed the rotten out, must be accepted albeit grudgingly. The naysayers bombard with examples of Western democracies as fruits of unimpeded political process. Democracy blossomed in the West over centuries and was hardly a consequence of mere recurrence of elections.
Several other variables like a robust, across the board accountability system and a functioning state discharging its fundamental duties like ensuring law and order, education and justice for all, health services went a long way in shaping democracy. Justice freed people from the compulsion of relying on clan, bribe, and connections to seek the rightful.
Education meant an improved awareness of one’s rights and a better understanding of who to vote for and why. The academic discourse on democracy is unequivocal in saying that good governance is a great enabler and affords people an opportunity to positively consider participation and rational self-expression.
Of the total 342 seats in the National Assembly, almost 200 are rural in character. Results of these seats bear heavily on the destiny of Pakistan. And rural politics, as Dr. Farrukh Naseem puts it, “is all about dharra-bandi, langaar bazi and thana-katcherry”, a fact borne out of the results of eight elections held so far. Elections, therefore, held today or tomorrow, without electoral reforms are likely to throw up mostly the same faces until and unless some variables are tinkered with.
In the long term, dispensation of justice and education for all especially in the rural areas. In the short term, reforms aimed at making elections a more representative exercise by liberating them from the clutches of the moneyed and corrupt.
Most dismiss the declaration signed by a TuQ and PM as a piece of paper with no legal significance. Is that really so? That piece of paper may not hold to the fire of court scrutiny but there are parts of it which are loaded with enough TNT to trigger a blast of unimaginable proportions. Articles 62 and 63 defining the character of an electoral candidate seem nebulous but are already a part of the written constitution. That they have never been enforced is another matter.
Imagine a petition by TuQ based on that worthless signed declaration invoking articles 62 and 63 and unleashing massive public/media pressure on the Supreme Court for enforcement. The Court may not mind enforcing clauses of a constitution framed by the very legislature, and initiating the mother of all accountability campaigns.