The disease eating away Pakistan from inside By Tahir Malik

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For a country formed on the demand for the right to vote, the most frequently asked questions in Pakistan are rather telling. When is the government going to fall? Who will be the next Prime Minister? What is the inside news?

How sad and grievous is the fact that in 73 years, Pakistan has been unable to find political stability? That not even one Prime Minister has been able to complete his constitutionally decreed tenure? That there is not one general elections that could be declared free and fair which was accepted by both the winning and losing political parties?

This lamentable state of affairs leads one to ask what is Pakistan’s biggest problem. What obstacle blocks its path to progress and prosperity? Who has put the obstacle there and how must it be removed?

Without answering these questions, this country cannot be shaped into the Pakistan our founding fathers had dreamt of. A land where every citizen will live in security and peace, where equal opportunities for all will reign supreme, where merit will be the only deciding factor.

For me, the answer is clear. Pakistan’s prevailing problem is politically instability. This one factor alone is responsible for the unfathomable destruction we see in Pakistan’s economy, society and its culture. Political confrontations have led to a point where the fifth most populous nation has neither a direction nor a goal. At the mercy of this unpredictability, two thirds of the population are either hovering at the line of poverty or have fallen below it.

Over 3 crore children roam the streets or work jobs instead of attending schools. According to a recent survey, 65% Pakistanis suffer from depression. Every day, hope for happiness and prosperity is receding further from our grasps. Had we been politically stable, we would have had the kind of leadership that plans for the country’s economic, financial, social, psychological and educational future. When the very people whose job it is to formulate future strategies are besieged by infighting, uncertainty and instability, how will they reach solutions to our problems?

The tale of political uncertainty is a simple one. In 73 years, two constitutions have been wiped off while the current constitution has been completely suspended twice. For 33 years, the people’s will was explained to us through the unelected General Yahya, General Ayoub, General Zia and General Musharraf, all of whom ruled alone on the might of their position within the military. In 40 years of so-called democracy, not one Prime Minister was able to finish the length of his tenure. The first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated while the second one was dismissed from his job. The next two Premiers, Mohammad Ali Bogra and Chaudhary Mohammad Ali were both forced to resign. Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawerdy and I.I. Chundrigar also handed in their resignations. Then, the governments of Feroze Khan Noon and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto were usurped.

Junejo was appointed and dismissed by General Zia, after which Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif both became Prime Minister twice each, followed by Yousuf Raza Gillani and Nawaz Sharif again, who were removed from their seats by the judiciary. In the intervening years, Zafarullahjjamali and Shaukat Aziz also resigned.

The 1970 general elections, the first one held under the one man, one vote system, are generally considered the fairest polls in our history yet we are never told the reason behind not asking Sheikh MujiburRehman to form the government despite him having a clear majority. What was this to be called if not rigging? In 1977, opposition alliance alleged that Bhutto had rigged the elections, starting a nationwide movement that ended not just the government but democracy itself. General Zia ruled the country from 1977 till his death in 1988. Then Benazir Bhutto’s first government lasted a mere 18 months, dismissed without a general election. As for the 1990 polls, in which Nawaz Sharif emerged victorious, a case about the rule of intelligence agencies in the elections is even now pending before the courts.

General Pervez Musharraf, under whose umbrella Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Patriots claimed victory in the 2002 general elections, did not even allow his hand picked Prime Minister Jamali to complete his tenure. After 2008, when PPP took charge in the wake of the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto, every day was fraught with rumors of the government’s impending demise. Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister for the third time in 2013, and was summarily dismissed in 2016 for not being “honest”. Although his party loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi filled his role, Nawaz Sharif kept on asking “Why was I removed?” And now Imran Khan is in power, but media is littered with questions about how long he will last.

This sorry history begets the question that why do Prime Ministers not come in through getting votes and why are they not relegated to history by not getting votes? What do we call this system? What is this disease that has riddled the body of the entire nation?

The time has come for our people to declare that governments will only be formed on the basis of taking majority of votes and dismissed only by losing elections. If this power is given to anyone or anything else, then no power can take Pakistan out of the quagmire it is in.