"We do not want lawbreakers to become lawmakers"
Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri, Januray 16, 2013.
A fearless anti-Taliban cleric has drawn more local and international media attention and focus in a few days than a Taliban-sympathizing cricket icon who has been active in Pakistani politics for more than a decade.
He has addressed a huge rally in Lahore on December 23, 2012, eclipsing an earlier large rally by PTI chief Imran Khan at Minar-e-Pakistan. He has brought the ruling coalition to its knees by forcing its members to publicly accept his demands for electoral reforms to conduct transparent, free and fair elections in front of tens of millions of Pakistanis who watched it live on almost all of Pakistan's many news channels.
Allama Tahir ul Qadri, a Pakistani Islamic scholar best known to the world for his fearless anti-terrorism fatwa, has proclaimed deep in the heart of Pakistani capital Islamabad that "law-breakers must not be allowed to act as law-makers".
Rather than talk about corruption and incompetence in the abstract, the Allama has clearly and succinctly articulated to tens of thousands of followers gathered in Islamabad and many tens of millions of Pakistanis through television the most egregious transgressions of Pakistani politicians. Here's some of what he said:
1. Most of the Pakistani lawmakers of all parties are in fact law-breakers.
2. Lawbreakers belong in jail, not in parliament. Such lawbreakers are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
3. Over 70% of Pakistani parliament members do not file any tax returns at all. Tax dodgers and lawbreakers can not be allowed to serve in Parliament under Article 62, clause F of the Constitution of Pakistan. Dr. Qadri demanded that there should be "no representation without taxation".
4. Most of the politicians of all stripes in the national parliament and provincial legislatures steal electricity and gas and do not pay their utility bills. The constitution (Article 63 clause R) says that any defaulter of electricity and gas bill of more than Rs. 10,000 over six months can not serve as a member of parliament. Hundreds of members of parliament, including government ministers, have had electricity cut off multiple times for defaulting.
5. Many members of parliament have fake college degrees.
6. Pakistani parliament has failed to enact any anti-terrorism legislation even after the killing of over 45,000 Pakistanis in terrorist attacks since 911.
7. The ruling parties in federal and provincial capitals have failed to make progress on providing basic necessities like electricity, water and gas to the people.
Dr. Qadri's detractors have tried to deflect his genuine criticisms of the political class by attacking him personally as a "foreign agent" and "pro-establishment", establishment being a code word for Pakistani military. His supporters, however, have remained peaceful, disciplined, passionate and committed to his cause for political reform. In spite of rain and bitter cold weather, ordinary men, women and children have refused to be intimidated by threats and warnings of violence. They have flocked to the nation's capital to press for political reforms in response to Dr. Qadri's call for Long March to Islamabad and prolonged sit-in in front of Pakistan's parliament.
Pakistan needs powerful pressure groups to reform national politics. Dr. Qadri's Minhaj-ul-Quran is the first such group. I hope there will be many more such passionate and eloquent activists and public interest groups to act as watch dogs over the nascent political process which must be reformed and allowed to continue and mature.
Here's a recent video of a discussion on the subject:
Here's a video clip of Dr. Qadri's speech on January 16, 2013 in Islamabad:
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