Agenda for way forward

Ever since its inception in 1947 the people of Pakistan have been carrying on a relentless struggle to establish democracy as envisioned by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who had single-handedly created a Muslim homeland through vote. He had a vision to establish Pakistan as model of liberal, progressive democracy with an egalitarian order for other Muslim countries to emulate. Unfortunately due to early death of Jinnah sahib and assassination of his most trusted lieutenant Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan got plunged into conspiratorial politics initiated by the powerful praetorian heirs of the colonial masters, who from Day One thought themselves to be a superior race fit only to rule.

During the last 70 years Pakistan has had four military dictators besides intermittent conspiracies by generals to keep civilian rulers on tenterhooks, undermining the democratic process. They have been using the crutch of corruption to character-assassinate most of them, starting from founding fathers like Khawaja Nazimuddin and Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy to Benazir Bhutto, while ensuring that the enormously pyrrhic budgets spent on them and by them remain beyond scrutiny by the elected representatives.

Since corruption by generals, judges and politicians has become an endemic issue that requires an urgent and foolproof strategy to eliminate the disease that has been gnawing the society from its very roots. So far various attempts, time and again, are made to kill the patient instead of curing the disease. Despite the fact successive governments have spent billions of hard earned money to combat white collar crimes but to no end. Theirs has been an exercise in futility, enabling people responsible for detection and persecution only using it as a pretext to make more money individually.

In view of the complete failure of the anti-corruption mechanism to eliminate corruption, following proposals are being made for debate at the national level and by politicians of all shades so that these could be considered to be incorporated in an overall socio-economic charter over and above the Charter of Democracy that PPP Chairperson Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and PMLN leader Mian Nawaz Sharif had historically signed in May 2006 in London as a way forward.

(1)     Transparent accountability wherever public funds are used are a sine qua non for the success of democracy. A future NAB shall have to be headed by a serving Supreme Court Judge of impeccable character to be appointed on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council, and supervised by an equally represented bipartisan parliamentary committee headed by the National Assembly Speaker. NAB shall have the power to investigate members of the armed forces and judiciary, in addition to those currently in its purview.

(2)     All constitutional amendments shall be introduced in consultation with the major opposition party, even if the Treasury has a two-thirds majority.

(3)     The ISI’s internal wing shall be shut down. It shall function within pre-1970 parameters, and its budget appropriately cut. In view of the mega financial scandals attributed to it such as proven in Air Chief Marshal Asghar Khan’s constitutional petition accusing ISI of funding political leaders opposed to Benazir Bhutto to stem her landslide victory in not one but two elections– special audit of its accounts since 1985 shall be carried out by a special team of professionals including forensic auditors appointed in consultation with the Auditor General of Pakistan.

(4)     During the four military rules ISI and Military Intelligence became over all in-charge of security and intelligence networking in the country undermining the traditional role of Intelligence Bureau (IB). As a result the focus of the civilian intelligence agencies was allowed to be diluted and eroded. The role of Intelligence Bureau as major intelligence agency shall have to be revived, revamped and restored to be effective in national security, countering terrorism, organized crime, etc. From the days of Ayub Khan and more so effectively during the decade long dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq, IB was more so used for hounding of political opponents. This despicable role of all intelligence agencies must come to an end now.

(5)     All intelligence organizations shall have to function under a designated Minister, while the PM shall head the Intelligence Committee of Parliament/Cabinet.

(6)     The government’s focus shall be on bringing visible relief to the common man, and reducing the role of government in his life emphasising that least government is the best government.

(7)     All nationalized banks and financial institutions shall be expeditiously and   transparently privatised. Their functioning shall be closely monitored and -regulated by the State Bank with no interference from the government. SBP independence shall be guaranteed by security of tenure for the Governor, Deputy Governors and Directors.

(8)     State land shall only be distributed to peasants who do not already have a viable holding. All other distributions or grants, including to armed forces personnel, shall be abolished. All grants and acquisitions since 1975 shall be investigated and any land found to have been allotted to any bodies or persons (including armed forces personnel) in violation or relaxation of rules, shall be re-possessed for distribution to peasants.

(9)     All urban state land shall be disposed of only through open public auction. There shall be no quotas for any public official for plot allotments.

(10)   There shall be no duty-free imports of cars or any other items for anyone in the government, including armed forces personnel. Duty exemptions shall only be granted carefully to government departments for operational purposes. Government functionaries, public officeholders, or armed forces officers, shall put no operational vehicle to personal use.

(11)   There shall be no quotas for any public office holders in educational  institutions. Admissions shall be solely on merit. Quota allocations for backward areas will  be reviewed every 10 years.

(12)  There shall be no allocations or acquisitions of reserved state land for state or private purposes. Any acquisitions in the last 10 years, in violation or relaxation of rules, shall revert to the concerned department, to be restored to the purpose for which it was reserved. All areas reserved for environmental protection, playgrounds, forests, greenbelts, wildlife sanctuaries shall be notified in the Gazette and not appropriated for any other use.

(13)  All defence establishments, HQs, cantonments, ammunition depots etc shall be shifted at least 20 miles out of urban limits, to state land provided for this. The urban land surrendered shall be sold by public auction, after proper town planning. The proceeds shall go to the defence forces for building new establishments at the newly allocated land.

(14)  Public dealing departments shall be made more accessible and accountable to the people.

(15)  All government appointments (BS 14 and above) shall be made through the Federal Public Service Commission while those in public sector organizations through a transparent procedure. All promotions shall be on merit/fitness and security of service/tenure shall be guaranteed.

(16)  Economic policies shall be framed to restore business confidence.

(17)  The CBR shall be streamlined to improve revenues and restore confidence in its honest and efficient functioning.

(18)  The criminal justice system shall be reformed to provide safety to the common man and easy access to timely justice.

(19)  VIP culture shall be eliminated effectively and not just cosmetically as has been done now. President, Prime Minister, Governors, Chief Ministers, Ministers and other holders of public office shall live and travel modestly. The Presidency, PM/CM Houses, Governor Houses shall be converted into public hospitals or educational institutions, or for other welfare purposes.

(20)  The government of the day shall strive to provide equality of opportunity. Policies shall be so framed to establish an egalitarian order on the principles of Islamic social justice.

(21)  Policies shall be framed to allocate greater resources to the social sector.

(22)  The government shall strive to provide clean drinking water, electricity, education, healthcare, housing and public transport and jobs to the common man with a view to ensuring “roti, kapra and makkan’ to all the needy by 2025.

(23)  Independence of the media shall be ensured. PTV, Radio Pakistan, APP shall be placed under an equally represented bipartisan parliamentary committee of the Parliament, headed by the Senate Chairman.

(24)  All major public appointments shall be vetted by bipartisan parliamentary committees.

(25)  To preclude army interference, political differences shall not be personalized. No recourse shall be made to drag the COAS or any security/ intelligence apparatus in any political differences or disputes, which shall be resolved by a committee of respective party elders nominated by the concerned parties. The committee decision shall be binding on both parties.

(26)  There shall be a bipartisan approach to introduce amendments in the constitution whenever necessary without hurting the original spirit of 1973 Constitution as of its original form.

(27)   Both the ruling and opposition parties shall work together to ensure election to the Presidency in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

(28)   Both shall ensure appointments of Chief Justices and Judges of the superior courts strictly on the basis of seniority.

(29)   Total impartiality, independence and empowerment of the Election Commission will be guaranteed. The Chief Election Commissioner shall invariably be appointed with the consent of the Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly. Once election date is announced CEC should be the sole arbiter of power. Voting in next elections be electronically ensured like India.

(30)  There shall be neutral caretaker governments, headed by Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and High Courts( with skeleton cabinets), set up each time, to hold elections within three months of dissolution of the National or Provincial Assemblies.

(31)   The Leader of Opposition shall be provided all necessary privileges and shall be next only to the PM in the order of precedence.

(32)   Opposition benches shall be treated with dignity and respect as part of Parliament and a healthy political process. Any due proceedings for misdemeanours shall be taken strictly in accordance with law and within legal parameters. There shall be no personal vendetta. The hatchet shall be buried for all times to come.

(33)   All parliamentary committees shall be set up within 60 days of the government taking over. The recommendations of the Parliamentary Committees shall be binding on the concerned department, especially in administrative matters.

Pakistan and its people have suffered enormously at the hands of unscrupulous individuals in all walks of life. The masses have writhed in pain long enough and with each passing day there is no end in sight of political, socio-economic, ethnic and sectarian vendettas. To start afresh and to forget the bitter memories of the past for building a healthy future and a strong Pakistan, setting up of Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the need of the hour.

Finally, people must remember that Pakistan does not have the capacity any more to bear further Praetorian adventurism, playing ball with the constitution and extra-constitutional interventions or to revert to four-time failed Presidential system. The only way forward is to revert to Jinnah Sahib’s vision of a secular Pakistan with the masses as the source of all power and not those holding  the barrel of the gun.

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