(THIS IS A PAKPOTPOURRI EXCLUSIVE)
Events have come to such a pass that the people of Pakistan of all classes and shades of opinion are clamoring for a change. The politicians , media and a section of civil society are advocating a constitutional change, but frustrations are running high and the common man is pushing for a revolution, or even direct military intervention. While the Military does not appear to be so inclined, there are widespread speculations that some kind of indirect action in concert with judicial activism is on the cards. There is no smoke without fire.
The confidence and bravado being displayed by the Prime Minister in the face of mounting pressure is either delusional, or an effort to bolster the morale of his Party and Government. (I remember when I was a young captain in erstwhile East Pakistan, just three days before the ignoble surrender, General Niazi, in an effort to boost our morale, boasted that soon we would be flying our flag on the Indian Command Headquarters inCalcutta! )
Change appears to be inevitable. It is desirable that it should be constitutional. However any change brought about constitutionally is likely to be short lived as it will only be “old wine in a new bottle”. The enormous problems facing the Nation would remain unsolved, and the widespread disillusionment will only be compounded, Consequently, sooner rather than later the combined “Push” of diverse forces will come to “Shove,” and the present dispensation may be thrown into the dust bin of history, Before that happens, the President, Parliament, and the Government along with their “Friends” and “Friendly opposition” in the provinces, should voluntarily do self cleansing and correct course. The correction will have to be drastic, surgical and merciless, where heads will roll and many loyalists incarcerated. Political and personal sacrifices will have to be made in the interest of survival. I suggest following initiatives be taken without loss of time :
- National Emergency should be imposed immediately under Articles 232 and 233 of the Constitution. (If the present circumstances do not warrant an Emergency, are we waiting for doomsday?) )
- The President Should confine himself to the role defined for him in the Constitution and give up his Party Office (he will continue to be its head even without the title of Co Chairperson anyway)
- All controversial governors and ministers should be changed at the Centre and provinces. The Federal Cabinet should be cut down to fifteen ministers with no ministers of state. Provincial cabinets to be restricted to ten.
- To formulate policy, there should be an advisory team of non political experts/technocrats with each ministry.
- The appointment of all heads of state enterprises like Steel mill, PIA, etc should be reviewed afresh and corrupt, unqualified or under qualified loyalists replaced.
- All parliamentary committees should be temporarily suspended, and through an Act of Parliament a National Truth Commission should be formed. Fifty percent members should be drawn from respected and experienced retired judges, academicians, technocrats, beaurocrats generals and businessmen. Such a Commission at federal as well as provincial level should have wide ranging powers to monitor governance and take corrective measures. Similarly smaller commissions could be formed at division and district level. Corruption should be the first priority of the Truth Commission.
- Local body elections to be held immediately, or the previous bodies to be restored for at least a year.
- Responsibility for rehabilitation of flood effected people to be given to the Armed forces, assisted by NDMA, credible NGOs and local bodies.
- The confidence of the beaurocracy should be restored by rewarding merit, providing security of tenure in appointments, and insulation from politics.
- Sectarianism and religious extremism to be tackled with firm resolve. Maddressa reforms should be strictly implemented. All non registered madrssas for children over twelve years closed immediately, and the senior hierarchy of all banned organization imprisoned under MPO.
- In serious cases where the law and order situation is beyond the limited competence of police to tackle (which is frequent) the Army should be called “In aid of civil power.”
- Revenue to be raised on war footing. Revolutionary taxation measures should be introduced including tax on agriculture. The rich should be forced to pay a one time flood tax. Pay, allowances and perks of all parliamentarians should be halved, and foreign visits banned except where absolutely necessary. Industrial cartels should be dismantled but due care needs to be exercised in dealing with businessmen so as not to scare them.
The list of suggested measure is by no means exhaustive, and they may not turn around the situation immediately. But their effects would be visible soon, infusing confidence in the Nation, giving it a glimpse of good governance. Foreign donors and investors will be likewise encouraged .
While the suggestions have been directed at the Government and politicians, there is a heavy responsibility on the media. It should show greater maturity and keep national interests above commercial ratings and personal prejudices. Sensationalism should give way to objectivity.
Dare I advise the Judiciary? Their lordships in all their omnipotence, should keep the “unintended” consequences of their judgments in mind before pronouncement.
And most important of all, the people of Pakistan should show more patience.