Dharna politics against national interest

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By Senator Rehman Malik

Pakistani politics has taken many ugly turns. The real meaning of a political system is good governance and easing out the life of a common man by providing them a comfortable life with the provision of basic necessities and security of their life and property.

In Pakistan, the dharna tactic was first used in 1958 by the first Chief Minister of the NWFP (now KP) province of independent Pakistan, Abdul Qayyum Khan against Prime Minister Feroze Khan’s administration to remove his President Iskander Mirza. The effective usage of the dharna protest was made by Naeem Siddiqui who proposed to use street politics/dharna for obtaining political objectives but this has never brought desired results for public betterment.

In 2008, General Musharraf deposed the then-Chief Justice Iftekhar Muhammad Chaudhary along with sixty other judges and dissolved the judiciary which led to a nationwide lawyers’ long march, the first of its kind that demanded the restoration of judiciary. The judges were restored for some time until Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in the country and sent the Chief Justice home for a second time. Later in 2009, under the PPP government, Nawaz Sharif along with Imran Khan and Qazi Hussain Ahmed planned a sit-in protest against PPP. I was the one to handle that potential dharna before it could enter Islamabad whose only purpose was to overthrow our government in the name of restoration of judges. A complete sequence of actions has been fully displayed in one of my books and a few TV interviews. I proposed to then-President Asif Zardari to restore judges to avoid the killings of many leaders which was planned through a suicide bomber. Following the year 2011, the cycle of never-ending fiascos, long marches, sit-ins, and dismay started in 2013 when Dr Tahir ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) organised a sit-in at D-Chowk for some days. He received a devastating blow from the then Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who threw away his petition for electoral reforms, challenging his stand for being a Canadian citizen, as he was not obliged to contest elections in Pakistan for being a dual national.

LAHORE: Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi waves to supporters as he is taken away after a court hearing in April this year.

The history of dharnas and lockdowns in Pakistan have resulted in neither good for politicians nor democracy. The leaders who went for violent street politics have agitated more for violence and the loss of lives for their own political gains. Our country has been under siege by rumours, poor law enforcement, corrupt systems, protests and sit-ins, mainly because of the wedge between the government and institutions for the past few years. Now looking at the details of the above sequence of dharna shows the trend and the desperation of the opposition to get into power is becoming clearer. All dharnas were politically motivated with clear agendas to either topple the government or to pressurise it. Both sides of dharnas cost a financial blow as the money spent to either organise a dharna or to monitor them comes from the government exchequer. Has anyone thought of a commission to investigate the financing of such dharnas which are totally detrimental for our fragile economy? Dharnas do not dismantle the government; rather they bring huge pressure and irreversible loss to the national exchequer.

LAHORE: TLP activists demonstrate demanding to release their chief Saad Rizvi in recent protest.

Two of the dharnas in the history of Pakistan have been highly destructive and most of these dharnas were sponsored ones. The politicians after the formation of a certain government forget their duties for the voters whom they had promised of a peaceful, progressive, and secure country, instead, they start organising dharnas and long marches only to snatch power from their opponents. This game of dharnas and long marches should now come to an end. Also, the longer sit-ins and marches should be completely banned as it stresses the economy.

Instead of playing with the fate of people, politicians should take on the evils of society to enhance the living standards of their public. If the people/political parties want to change the government then let the constitutionally defined course be followed and work for the poor masses. We need to revisit our political system and the bylaws of all our political parties if we want to bring real democracy for the masses whereas the present obsolete system is to empower the elite and privileged class.

We hope one day that the people of Pakistan will have real democracy from those who are involved in horse-trading, lotacracy, and high price-tagged senators and MNAs. Inflation has not only raised the prices of utilities but has also increased the price of senators.

(The writer is a PPP Senator, former Interior Minister of Pakistan, and Chairman of think tank “Global Eye” and Senate Standing Committee on Interior. He can be reached at: rmalik1212@gmail.com, Twitter @Senrehmanmalik)