When Nawaz Sharif was PM, all we heard was ‘get rid of Nawaz Sharif’. Same with Benazir Bhutto. From the very first day that Zardari became president, already people were saying he should go. We elected this government barely two years ago, and some in the media are asking if there should be mid-term polls to replace the government. But these calls are misguided and would stunt progress and repeat the same mistakes as before.
If we do not let the government which was democratically elected by the people finish its full term, why would any next government think that the same will not happen again? If no government can ever be sure that it will be allowed to even finish its elected term, what incentive does it have to make any difficult choices?
Whether someone’s degree is from an accredited university or not is interesting only on a level that is so far out of touch with the common people that it is disturbing. There is an emerging food crisis, and instead of spending time working on a solution, our MNAs are having to answer questions about where they went to school. Instead of working on solutions to the energy and security issues of today, government officials are spending their time on 15-year-old cases. Do we want progress in this country, or do we want petty fighting?
Despite the constant drum beating from some corners of the media, clear thinking is prevailing on many of the editorial pages.
The SC’s order to the Chief Election Commissioner to take action under Section 78 of the Representation of People Act 1976 against the latest in the line of fake degree holders who resigned from his National Assembly seat NA-184 Bahawalpur II, PPP’s Mr Amir Yar Waran, should set the precedent for similar action against other proven frauds. Instead of taking umbrage or feeling pressurised, the government should see it as an opportunity to reclaim the values of integrity and honesty for the holders of public office. In addition to legal proceedings against them, such members should be barred for life from holding public office, and no political party should provide them protection or support. Parliament, however, should complete its term. The highly expensive option of mid-term elections has never solved any of our problems in the past. Rather, derailing of governments through extra-parliamentary means mid-term during the 1990s severely undermined democracy.
The demand for mid-term elections is not justified unless it is backed by all parties. This is especially true when the PML-N and other opposition parties do not appear to be interested in the idea. Those calling for mid-term elections should realise that it would perhaps be in the country’s interest to wait until 2013 when voters will decide on who should take charge. Although it is unclear how the fake degrees’ issue will resolve itself, it is evident that brinkmanship and speculation at this point may result in wholly undesired consequences, such as the democratic project being shelved once more.
At a time when democracy finally seems to be gaining some traction, it is essential that the current parliament complete its term. Any shake-up before the scheduled 2013 elections will result in a reversion to the farce of a democracy that the country lived through during the 1990s. While an immediate return to direct military rule seems unlikely, talk of fresh elections strengthens the hand of the military to intervene in national politics, an arena from which it must firmly be shut out. We understand and appreciate the frustration of the opposition. There is much to be desired in the governing capabilities of the current administration, particularly on the economic front. Yet there are also very real political achievements of the PPP-led government, achievements which will not only strengthen democracy in the country but will also help the PML-N to govern more effectively if and when it wins the elections at the national level. For that to happen, the party must be willing to wait till 2013.
This is not asking for much. It not asking for Zardari to be declared Amir-ul-Momineen. It is not asking for PPP to be elected for life. It is not even asking for PPP to be re-elected. It is only one simple request that, for once, can’t we just let the process work? Is it not possible for Pakistan to have one government that is allowed to finish its elected term?
2010 has already turned the corner and we will be facing 2011 soon. Then only two years will remain until elections when we can vote for whomever we want – PPP, PML-N, PML-Q…whoever we the people choose. It is our right to decide our own leaders. PPP does not own the government, neither does PML-N. And neither does the media or the judiciary. Government belongs to the people only. Let us have the government we chose.
Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said,
“That freedom can never be attained by a nation without suffering and sacrifice has been amply borne out by the recent tragic happenings in this subcontinent. We are in the midst of unparalleled difficulties and untold sufferings; we have been through dark days of apprehension and anguish; but I can say with confidence that with courage and self-reliance and by the Grace of God we shall emerge triumphant.”
We are still in the midst of great suffering and sacrifice, but we have made much progress. Fixing all of our problems will not happen overnight. Just as one cannot perform Umrah in only one step, so it will take many steps for us to complete the process of perfecting our democracy. If we start over after every first step, we will never get anywhere.