As soon as the ousted Prime Minister’s back was turned, the Anti-Narcotic Force (ANF) conducted raids to arrest both Musa Gilani and Makhdoom Shahabuddin, in connection with the ephedrine scandal. If they had been arrested, this would have made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. How all-pervasive is corruption in our highest places!
Anyway, the PM’s election has been a real-life drama. The party had nominated Makhdoom Shahabuddin, and this was duly announced. But before this could happen, it was reported that the ANF was conducting raids for his arrest. The nomination was, thus, hastily withdrawn and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was elected (read selected) as PM.
Here, a brief mention of the gentleman’s background is in order. As the Minister for Water and Power, according to the Supreme Court, he violated the principle of transparency in the awarding of contracts for the Rental Power Plants (RPPs); the case has been referred to the National Accountability Bureau for necessary action. The RPP scam amounted to Rs 455 billion, while a considerable amount was recovered on account of advanced payments and interest. Further, his repeated promises to end loadshedding had become a standing joke. There was a horrendous increase in the circular debt and resultant deepening economic crisis due to unscheduled power outrages. That led to the closure of hundreds of industrial units and their relocation in Bangladesh and Malaysia. Millions have been unemployed that is increasing the number of beggars on the streets, while the economy is almost on the verge of collapse. However, none of this seems to have mattered a bit to the leaderships of the PPP, PML-Q, MQM, ANP, and JUI-F. So long as they’ve had a fair share of the pie, they could-not-care-less!
Seen from another angle also, it is obvious how little merit counts in our political system. Qamar Zaman Kaira, for instance, is one of the PPP’s leaders, who is clean and has no corruption charges against him. He and Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar were vetoed by the Chaudharies of the PML-Q, because they belonged to the latter’s area of influence. Both Mian Raza Rabbani and one who shall remain nameless in this article were excluded, because they were considered just too good. So, the field went to the ‘consensus candidate’, or rather the lowest common denominator, despite his negative performance as Water and Power Minister. This leads one to think that, perhaps, the presidential system is better; since no political leader can veto not one but two candidates - Kaira and Mukhtar, as has just happened in our parliamentary system. The selection is in the hands of thousands of delegates in the primaries, and, thereafter, in the hands of millions of voters in the presidential election itself.
The other important benefit in the presidential system is: the President is elected by a simple majority vote of the people, and can be removed only by the votes of two-thirds of the Congressmen. In contrast, a Prime Minister can be ousted by a simple majority of votes of the National Assembly members. This is too thin a rope to hang onto! The PM is, therefore, hostage even to the most unreasonable demands of the MNAs; quite similar is the relationship between the Chief Ministers and their MPAs. And this is how governance goes to the dogs!
However, a moment’s reflection will show that if anyone other than Zardari had been the President, the history would have been different. There would have been no need to write to the Swiss authorities, the government would have prosecuted all beneficiaries of the defunct NRO, the PM would not have been unseated for contempt of court, and finally, there would have been no attempt by the PPP to table an amendment to enable the Senate to impeach the Chief Justice or establish Supreme Courts in every province; if this happens, it will permanently introduce an adversarial relationship between the executive and the judiciary. All in all, the last four years would not have been wasted, and the country would have moved forward. But then, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride them!
As a final word, the people have tried both the major political parties a number of times, but nothing has worked, and the country has continued on a downward slope. They can only expect more of the same from them. Thus, since Imran Khan has been promising to do better, perhaps, they should try him!
n The writer is a former principal of the King Edward Medical College, and former president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan.