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‘Elections without reforms unacceptable;
 
 
Mumtaz Alvi
Thursday, January 17, 2013
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chief Dr Tahir ul Qadri on Wednesday said that the government’s ouster had become the writing on the wall and he would not accept the elections without electoral reforms.

 

He gave an ultimatum to the beleaguered government to dissolve all the assemblies overnight or face the ‘consequences’. He said that the politicians who had plundered the national exchequer were hands in glove with each another.

 

During his over three-hour-long speech to participants of the sit-in, he presented his demands, calling them the Islamabad Declaration. He called for the dissolution of the National Assembly and all the four provincial assemblies overnight and conduct of elections within 90 days thereafter.

 

He said dissolution of the assemblies would give one month to the authorities for scrutiny of candidates and rejection of ‘thieves, looters, exploiters, bank defaulters and those who got their loans written off’. He said he was against the delay in holding elections.

 

He asked Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim to resign and ‘honourably’ go home. He praised the CEC, saying that he was impartial, upright and honest but too old for the job.

 

He said four ECP members were appointed by political parties and the provincial election commissions were a result of a deal among these parties.

 

Qadri alleged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had failed to stop electoral irregularities, adding that in India, 2,068 legislators were de-seated from 2009 to 2012. He said in Pakistan, fake degree holders returned to parliament despite court orders against them.

 

“Do you want this to continue, do you want the rigged elections again?” he asked the audience, who shouted back, “We want change, we want change.” He said that the Army did not take over India because the electoral process, good or bad, had been continuing.

 

“Morally, the authority of this government is lost as per the world traditions and values after the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf in a corruption case. He is now an accused and a convict,” Qadri told a charged gathering at the D-Chowk, close to the President’s House and Parliament House. The president has been in Karachi for several weeks now.

 

Qadri asked the authorities to take a decision on the dissolution of assemblies overnight so that the sit-in could come to an end and its participants were spared of hardships and harsh weather. He asked the participants to stand up and within a second all of them were on their feet and then asked them to sit down and they did so. “If I ask you to occupy these buildings, would you?” he questioned and then got a loud response from them in the affirmative.

 

Qadri said his revolution had come but it was unlike the bloody revolutions of France, Russia, China, Tunis and Egypt. He claimed, “We are now so close to our destination.” The TMQ leader came down heavily upon the government again and alleged the rulers only looted the national exchequer and were now spending billions of rupees on their election campaigns from the tax-payers’ money.

 

He charged that the rulers had failed to lessen the problems of the common man and provide them with basic facilities like electricity, gas and employment in these five years.

 

Qadri continued that the rulers also failed to combat terrorism, maintain law and order, peace, run the government in a transparent manner and ensure implementation of the court judgments.

 

Again, he took oath from the audience that they would not leave the sit-in before his instructions and in the same vein allowed them to leave if they wanted. He reiterated his resolve to stay put till his demands were met.

 

The inhospitable weather, lack of basic facilities like toilets and a proper place to sit and sleep, failed to dampen the resolve of the audience, majority of whom belonged to the poor, lower middle and middle class and had come from the far-flung areas in the hope of seeing a change in their lifetime.

 

Qadri clarified that he was not a candidate for the slot of the caretaker prime minister. “I want to be the caretaker of 180 million people and want protection of their rights through a truly democratic dispensation,” he maintained.

 

His four demands are: electoral reforms under the Constitution and dissolution of the Election Commission and its reconstitution; strict implementation of the Articles 62, 63 and 218 of the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act, 1976; installation of a caretaker government; and dissolution of the assemblies and a mechanism for holding the elections in a transparent manner.

 

He said according to the electoral laws, the authority of the Election Commission would be exercised on the installation of the caretakers to halt pre-poll rigging, which was currently on. He alleged that billions of rupees were being taken away from the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to be misused by ministers, MNAs, senators and MPAs.

 

He claimed nowhere in the world, development funds were given to legislators.He said dissolution of the assemblies before time would save the national exchequer from further loot and plunder.

 

Qadri said a former prime minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, had told him in Melbourne that that he shelved a ‘massive investment’ project after a ‘top man’ from Pakistan demanded 30 percent kickbacks for it. He said Hawke remarked that the major reason why Pakistan could not progress was corruption at the top level.

 

He also said a former New Zealand prime minister had told him that ‘your prime minister, your leaders’ had 49 or 50 percent share in Pakistan’s largest state-owned projects. He said the New Zealand’s ex-premier also said ‘such dacoits and thieves were your leaders’.

 

“There should be an end to such corrupt practices now. Our children can have a secure future if we stop such elements from coming to power again through free, fair and transparent elections,” Qadri said.

 

Dr Qadri, for the first time after leading the march and staging the sit-in, invited Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan to join him here for both shared a consensus on issues Pakistan was facing. He noted Imran was also against the status quo like him.

 

Agencies add: Islamabad’s Kohsar Police Station lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against Qadri and 21 of his companions. They have been accused of thrashing the police, creating law and order problem, interference in the affairs of the state and attempted murder. The FIR has been registered on a report of Police Inspector Mehboob Ahmad.

 

Qadri alleged that Interior Minister Rehman Malik was behind the FIR. After filing a lawsuit in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) accusing the government of contempt of court, Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran has now moved the court against Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

 

Chief coordinator of the Tehreek, Hanif Mustavi, filed a petition numbered 22-A in the Sessions Court, Islamabad, contending that a case be registered against Rehman Malik for harassing the peaceful participants of the sit-in, intimidating them and firing at them.

 

Subsequently, Sessions Judge, Islamabad West, Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan, asked the Kohsar Police SHO to appear before the court on Friday and apprise it of the matter. Afterwards, the court adjourned the hearing till tomorrow (Jan 18).

 

Separately, Pemra rejected Qadri’s allegations of blocking cable transmission during his speech. A Pemra spokesman said cable service had not been blocked anywhere and Qadri’s allegations were baseless.

 

The marchers have started littering the green belt and surrounding areas, creating pollution in the city. In addition, officials said that protesters use green belt in Blue Area as toilet besides wrappings of food items could be seen scattered in the entire area of the long march.

 

Shakir Jahangir, a resident, said that it was the right of every person to record protest but they should also keep the cleanliness of the city in mind.Meanwhile, former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf declared the long march a success. “I have supported them from the beginning,” said the former president.

 

Musharraf claimed had he been in Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s position, some change would have taken place in the country by now.During his speech, Qadri invited Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to join his protest. Addressing the participants of the sit-in, he said Imran Khan was against the status quo and not included among the corrupt leaders. “He is also seeking a change and that why he is invited to participate in the protest,” said Qadri. He said that if they shared the same demand, Imran should also support him to get rid of the corrupt leadership.