NEWS & VIEWS
UNDER Article 25 (1) All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law; and Article 25A says that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law. But one could see that members of the ruling elite get away with billions of rupees corruption whereas an ordinary person involved in few thousands rupees corruption or theft has to spend years in jail. As regards the provision about education, no government has tried to implement it or given importance it deserves with the result that education sector is in tatters. Apart from that, be it 18th Amendment or for that matter any other amendment it is for the benefit of the plutocrats, as even the people belonging to middle class cannot afford to field themselves as candidates in elections.
Such situation will not help promote the democracy project because it is sham democracy, whereas the genuine democracy is all for people. But given the majority of the people living in the thralldom of sardars, waderas, some of them are pirs as well, and in the cities clout of industrial tycoons and their nominees, they and their scions are likely to be elected. They will have clear majority in the National Assembly and the Senate, and will continue to ride a rough shod over the wretched of the earth, as people’s welfare does not exist in their scheme of things. Majority of people especially those living below the poverty line want the change in the status quo; they want improvement in living conditions. During dharna by the PTI and PAT in 2014, PPP Senator Aitzaz Ahsan had admitted that “we failed to deliver”, meaning both the PPP and the PML-N governments. By holding joint session of Parliament during PTI dharna, they intended to send a message to the military establishment that the entire nation was behind the government.
The nation listens to the litany of the leaders about empowerment of the people. But how to empower the disenfranchised citizenry of the rural areas to be master of its own destiny, where a domineering aristocracy holds human beings in countless numbers in its bondage? The way out for emancipation, empowerment and enfranchisement of this hapless enslaved humanity is to make them owners of the land they are tilling. But surely the oligarchs holding all the sway over nation’s politics would certainly not allow it to happen. Has anyone heard voices coming out of political parties or media studios, or from NGOs or human rights watch groups against repressive jagirdari system? Has anyone heard of holding seminars by civil society for land reforms?
In Pakistan, unless remnants of feudalism, jagirdari syst em, and tribalism are done away with, there is no hope that democratic system could work. Late General Ayub Khan had announced land reforms in 1958; late Z.A. Bhutto announced first land reforms in 1973 and second land reforms in 1977, thus further reducing ceilings on private ownership of farmland to about 100 acres of irrigated and about 200 acres of non-irrigated land. General Muhammad Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation created the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) for the first time, its aim being to review whether the law was repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. Petitions were filed in the Shariat Appellate Bench against the judgment of the Shariat Court stating the reforms were legal. The Bench comprised Mufti Taqi Usmani, Mufti Pir Karam Shah, Justice Afzal Zullah, Justice Nasim Hassan Shah and Justice Shafi-ur-Rehman. Mufti Taqi Usmani wrote the lead judgment declaring that land reform legislations were repugnant to Islam.
However, Justice Nasim Hassan Shah and Shafi-ur-Rehman had put up a dissenting note stating that limit on land holdings was necessary to reform the society and alleviate poverty. But the verdict sealed the fate of land reforms, as majority of lawmakers have vested interest. There is only one way to deprive jagirdars of their power bases, and that is massive land reforms, which could unleash productive and creative forces that would work for progress, prosperity and solidarity of the country. Perhaps the full bench of the Supreme Court could undo the verdict of appellate Sharia Court by taking suo motu, or if a petition is filed against the above verdict. The political parties, that have been given the mandate to rule, should keep the welfare of the people in their minds if they have to remain relevant to the people. If they fail to deliver, they will become irrelevant to the people.
Some members of the parliament, commentriat and chattering classes insinuate military for interfering in the domain of the Executive and also accuse it of emboldening protesting parties, Mehmood Khan Achakzai openly blames the military. What credentials, by the way, does this self-styled democrat carry to be taken as a true champion of democracy when he doesn’t give democracy to his party, which he presides over as a hereditary monarch? And what democracy campaigner could really he be that in every general election it is either he himself or some close relation or a crony he fields in the arena as his party candidate? Addressing the National Assembly session during PTI dharna days, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai had said that democracy in Pakistan was under threat, urging leaders to join hands and thwart any attempt to derail it. But people have started understanding their shenanigans.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.