What change? | Pakistan Today

What change?

Real change means an equitable new status quo

Will ‘change’ bring change for the better or will it just be change of faces? That is the question. Change for change’s sake is pointless. Change of government is not the issue. What we need is fundamental systemic change if we are to be saved.

Some people are feeling the winds of change, citing the government’s poor performance, change of guard in the army and the judiciary and rumours of Dr Tahir ul Qadri and Imran Khan gearing up for action. What an unlikely duo. Both gentlemen are alpha males. Two alpha males cannot lead a pack. There is a fight to the death. Throw Altaf Hussain’s MQM into the pack and it becomes fraught with disequilibrium. They will have to work out how to divide the spoils between them beforehand.

They have to devise their post-power agenda first and cast it in reality. The army will have to be on board and whether young Imran likes it or not, so will America, else he will be leading a wobbly bankrupt government. It’s easier to stop NATO supplies than running a country whose geo-strategic location is a curse.

Change means not change of government but of system, of change in people’s lives for the better. It means honest and competent rulers with a doable national plan to save Pakistan. Else there’s no point. It’s nucleus has to be making the constitution workable by removing its hypocrisy, lacunae and contradictions, reorientation of Pakistan’s administrative and provincial structure, a political system that delivers good governments, an equitable economic system, justice up the line, enforcement of fundamental human rights, especially the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the state’s duty to provide people affordable nutrition, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education, to earn a respectable living, to protect an individual’s and family’s dignity and provide security. Real change means an equitable new status quo towards a truly Revolutionary Islamic Welfare State as envisaged by Mr. Jinnah in his August 11, 1947 speech. Else all that untimely and forced change will do is once again derail and delay our evolutionary process of learning from our own mistakes.

People’s growing desperation is palpable. The air is fraught, pregnant with rumours and rumours of rumours. If it is because of change in the army and judicial commands, don’t forget that these gentlemen come not from Mars but from the same ruling class and are sworn to protect the status quo unless it comes to saving the country: then the army will act and the Supreme Court will legitimize it again to save the status quo. They will make some cosmetic changes that will be torn to shreds by the old pack of political wolves when it returns. The objective should be to chase away this pack and change the system.

There could certainly be a movement but have earlier movements led to anything better? Either the army returns and does well for a while or the politicians return and do badly immediately. Once sacked judges returned and spread confusion by not working in tandem but at loggerheads with the other two branches of government.

Imran Khan’s party has had a patchy stint in provincial government. I would be happy if Imran were to become prime minister and translate even half his rhetoric into action. If it were not for his blocking the NATO supplies he wouldn’t have regained his lost support. But given some of the people he has collected around him at the top does not bode well, jaded renegades from other parties who become turncoats in the blink of an eye.

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“There could certainly be a movement but have earlier movements led to anything better? Either the army returns and does well for a while or the politicians return and do badly immediately.

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On the other hand Dr Tahir ul Qadri has never held office, so we have no track record to go on. Whatever he predicted came true, which goes in his favour, though many of us were also predicting much the same. In a mullah-ridden society he is a religious scholar who doesn’t call himself ‘mullah’. However, he must learn the endgame and not enter into deals at the moment of victory. He must learn to kick the ball into the goal after successfully getting it into ‘D’ Square. If he does get another chance he must make the most of it. He should become an agent of change of system, not of government only. That’s hard.

It’s easier said than done. Overthrowing a government is one thing. Overthrowing the status quo is quite another. New faces cannot start doing their homework after getting power, as military governments always do, looking hither and yon for people and policies and falling for what the last person said to them in the escalator. They must do their homework now, make their teams and hit the ground running if ever they do. The political forces arrayed against them are awesome and have returned from the dead many a time because of their money, reach, deep ingress into all state institutions and support of outside powers.

 

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“If elections are forced this summer and the Qadri-Imran crowd comes in, who will be what? Alpha males have Himalayan egos.”

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If elections are forced this summer and the Qadri-Imran crowd comes in, who will be what? Alpha males have Himalayan egos. If they don’t have a two-thirds majority in parliament and control of provincial governments, particularly the Punjab, they will find it well nigh impossible to bring any meaningful change. Then their changes will only be cosmetic and all we would have achieved is change of faces. Big deal!

Without real change one would rather wish this parliament to complete its term and the people’s learning process not to be aborted. Learning from suffering is the best way to ensure that mistakes are not repeated. Let this system continue towards its natural evolution or self-abolition. Don’t abort it, for in so doing you only give it artificial life and prolong our misery.

There is no point in overthrowing the status quo unless you are absolutely clear what you want to replace it with and how to get it accepted by the masses. If the people take to it the international community will follow. If not, you create another bridge for hegemony.

The problems any new government will be confronted with are the same the present government is confronted with and more. Apart from terrorism, for which neither Nawaz Sharif nor Imran Khan seems to have a credible solution except surrender, there is the dire situation of the economy with its concomitant degradation in the people’s lives. There are no immediate measures to provide long-term solutions that will take us out of the vice of indebtedness and fiscal deficits – spending less than we earn while increasing our earnings to increase our spending with fiscal surpluses, not loans. You do that by increasing the GDP. The GDP won’t increase without investment in the right sectors. Investment won’t happen as long as Pakistan is riven with terrorism, gang wars and Mafiosi, the biggest of which is government itself. An illiterate population laced with dysfunctional educated that does not make for either good manpower or good management does not make for attracting investment either. Education, education and more education is the key. Education is nowhere in our set of priorities whereas it should be at the top. We don’t have enough qualified teachers at any level to provide good teachers. All we have are bad literate-illiterates who cannot get a job elsewhere, don’t know any language well, not even their mother tongues or the national language, forget the other official language, English. It’s a deadly Catch-22. They will need to think out of the box to create a properly educated populace if Pakistan is to rise.

 

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“To rule long is to rule well. It’s not that difficult. Don’t create problems where none exist as if those you have inherited are not enough. Are you dying for more challenges?”

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Education would solve many problems. It would decrease population growth and gradually decrease the rate of increase in demand for food and services. We could be a net food exporting country with a healthier and more educated populace. An educated people go a long way in attracting investment. More investment means more jobs and fewer hopeless desperadoes joining the ranks of terrorists and criminal gangs as cannon fodder. While education will always remain the most powerful weapon, fiscal surpluses would give us our own money to invest in defence, surrounded by turmoil and imbalance in the region as we are. I can go on but why belabour the point? I’m sure all of you get my drift.

In putting Musharraf on trial for treason, Nawaz Sharif has, as usual, not left himself any avenue of escape. The government is not being clever. It is nervous, its apologists would say because of past experiences. Sure, but they brought those past experiences on themselves by punching above their weight. If only they are at least seen to be delivering on promises and taking the people out of their misery, not misleading them with forked tongues and tall claims, they would be in no danger. Take the people along, convince them about the problems you face, show them a credible roadmap and they will follow to improve their sorry lot. Stop being indecisive, stop berating the army, stop corruption and nepotism, end the vulgar pomp and ceremony around you, your family and cronies. To rule long is to rule well. It’s not that difficult. Don’t create problems where none exist as if those you have inherited are not enough. Are you dying for more challenges?

Humayun Gauhar is a political analyst. He can be reached at: [email protected]

Humayun Gauhar

Humayun Gauhar is a veteran columnist in Pakistan and editor of Blue Chip magazine.



8 Comments

  1. Shahzad Sadiq said:

    Wonderful Article – I strongly agree that we need to change the system not faces and in my personal point of view Dr. Qadri's stance is solid that that of Mr. Imran Khan as he is in parliament with similar faces.

  2. Afsheen said:

    Having observed Imran Khan in politics for a number of years, it fails me to understand why he did not push for electoral reforms. We all know had he done so, he would have been the PM and I for one would have definitely voted for him.

    The situation in Pakistan is very delicate, the country is on it’s way down, clearly the federal govt will not bring change and PTI are powerless in the national assembly. The nation is desperate and needs to get rid of corruption and the only person willing to do this is Dr Tahir ul Qadri. I can see a revolution taking place in Pakistan very soon lead by Mr qadri, the nation has nothing to lose by bring a revolution they will only gain, whereas the corrupt are the ones who will lose out.

  3. Faisal said:

    Interesting how Dr. Tahir ul Qadri has become a symbol of real opposition in Pakistan despite being the only main party out of parliament. Status quo seems to be ever more wary or TUQ than any other opposition faction sitting in the federal or provincial government. Has no one every before mobilised status quo together against an individual as Tahir ul Qadri… either it be politicians, corporations or journalists…. all were united only against TUQ. Imran Khan mobilises thousands and gets prime time coverage on media yet he fails to even raise their brows while all TUQ did was a jalsa and a long march and before a blink all status quo parties were seen on one platform…. They are clearly scared of him. Can you imagine the JI who is today sharing a stage with PTI was sharing the stage with PMLN in their anxious attempt to dispel Tahir ul Qadri's anti status quo uprising! TUQ has become a phenomenon and public is starting to have the TUQ fever as he continues to sow the seed of revolution in every mind and every heart! me included! I now have the TUQ syndrome! I yearn for a revolution too! I eat, drink and sleep revolution now!

  4. Muhammad Hanif said:

    "Tahir ul Qadri was right" is being admitted by all and sundry

  5. ZAK said:

    I absolutely agree with Humayun that we need to change the status quo and that education, education and more education is the need of the hour. But who will do this ? The status quo is perfectly happy to see a majority of the nation uneducated and illiterate. It suits their game-plan. So how does this happen you please tell me ?
    I was reading on the internet that the per acre yield of wheat in India is 80% MORE than what we get in Pakistan. So if we grow 25 million tons of the grain and need 24 million tons for domestic use, WE HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO ACTUALLY GROW 45 MILLION TONS OF WHEAT IN THE COUNTRY ! The key word is Education and technology.

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