- Posted January 7, 2013 by
Mantra of Change
The Mantra of Change
With the elections looming on the horizon in Pakistan as the country paddles into 2013 trying to fulfil the first civilian full parliamentary term in its political history under the auspices of the Pakistani People’s Party (PPP) the mantra of change is hitting the political headlines across various media networks and being used by multiple political actors and parties. The question arises is that is this mantra of change a new phenomena in mainstream politics or something new or even revolutionary.
The nature of the party political electoral system is that those parties in opposition to the party in government will often use the mantra “it is time for a change”, to move away from the status quo, inefficient practices and to improve on what has passed before. This mantra has been used by New Labour when they ousted the Conservative Party in 1997 and subsequently by the Democrats in America when Barack Obama won the presidential elections in 2008. The mantra of change is more difficult to use by a party that is in power seeking to get re-elected but nevertheless it is also used by parties in power to state that what lessons have been learnt during the existing parliamentary term and mistakes that would not be repeated if they were elected. What can be deciphered from this short synopsis is that change is the mantra of elections no matter which corner of the globe they are taking place. The key question is that what is the magnitude of the change that is likely or will take place and which direction this change will lead a nation too! Is it piecemeal change or revolutionary style change as witnessed in Egypt to depose Husne Mubarak and his government after over 30 years of being in power, multi-faceted incited change as witnessed in Libya and now circumventing Syria.
In Pakistan, under the mantra of change a not new political actor but one who had been away from the shores has returned to hold a rally of unprecedented magnitude in Lahore and using the mantra of change to galvanise the masses. That political actor is none other than Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri who is patron of an international organisation Minhaj ul Quran. Dr. Tahir ul Qadri is not a novice when it comes to Pakistani politics as he had previously held a seat in the National Assembly under the political arm of his international organisation called Pakistan Awamee Tahreeq. However, he resigned from the National Assembly under the grounds that the status quo system which is imbued with corruption and nepotism makes it impossible to bring about positive change in the country and for sincere, educated and bright minded individuals who have the countries interest at heart to stand for election without being privy to this corrupt system. Dr. Tahir ul Qadri then shifted to Canada from where he continued to direct his organisation, giving speeches, lectures worldwide and writing numerous books including the Fatwa on Terrorism which derived wide media attention.
Dr. Tahir ul Qadri’s speech on the 23rd December at Minare Pakistan in front of many hundreds and thousands of people struck a chord with the mass population who have become disgruntled with the current system which has taken Pakistan to zenith unheard of and unprecedented in its recent history. The list is endless from corrupt politicians, governance, failing economy, heightened terrorism and mass anarchy in many parts of Pakistan. This is the legacy that the existing government under PPP that is being presented to the population at large. Dr. Tahir ul Qadri is asking all stakeholders be they political or non-political to join him on a long march to Islamabad on 14 Jan 2013 under the proviso that the institutional and governance structures for the coming election needs to be changed in accordance with the provisions of the constitution which he believes are not currently being adhered to. This includes a reformed Electoral Commission and most likely installing a caretaker government to run the country to ensure that the up and coming elections are held in a free, fair, just and impartial manner. The message of change is primarily directed towards the duopoly strong political parties of PPP and PML-N whom Dr. Tahir ul Qadri believes will rig the next elections to bring about the usual favourable result for their own vested interests. Many other political parties are in a state of limbo as to whether they should join this march to Islamabad. The MQM party under Altaf Hussain seems to be backing Dr. Tahir ul Qadri’s movement for change whereas Imran Khan’s PTI have stated that although they agree with the message that Dr. Tahir ul Qadri has propagated to the nation as they themselves have been campaigning against the same unjust system, they have not openly as of yet stated that they will be participating on this long march. The mainstream parties of PPP and PML-N argue that if Dr. Tahir ul Qadri wishes to bring about change, why does he not engage in the political process and stand for election etc as opposed to the quest march which they deem is a ploy to derail the up and coming elections and lead the country into further unrest. Allegations that Dr. Tahir ul Qadri has been sent to Pakistan as an agent of the West to cause instability have also been brandished. Dr. Tahir ul Qadri has stated that he has no intention of standing for election or being a Prime Minister etc but his main drive for marching is to change the corrupt institutional and governance structures that have stifled the country from progressing since its inception.
What all the stakeholders needs to realise is that popular protest in a peaceful manner is a democratic right in popular democracies provided it is done in a civil and cordial manner. Even as a citizen of Pakistan, one should not be negated of this right to protest in a peaceful manner. Time will tell whether the mantra of change under the guise of the march to Islamabad on the 14 Jan 2013 will be the catalyst to bring about the positive changes that the population at large so desire or will it be negative change leading the country into another spiral of civil and political unrest.
By Kaleem Hussain