At the close of the year 2012 and the advent of 2013, the Concerned Citizens Society of Pakistan (CCP) expresses its deep concern over the growing menace of extremism, intolerance and terrorism across the country. Pakistan was conceived and achieved as a liberal welfare state, which would promote the happiness, security and rights of its citizens. But after 65 years, the obscurantist forces are now occupying centre stage. They have pushed the majority, who share the views of the founding fathers to the fringes, which is alarming. Sectarianism has taken its gruesome toll of innocent lives; and lack of implementation of the right to education for all has incarcerated our coming generations into the realm of darkness where feudalism reigns supreme.

The acute lack of governance and prevalence of corruption by our elected representatives, which is also reflected in all sectors of national life, has led to the failure of economic policy at all levels. It is incredible that 67 percent of our parliamentarians do not pay income tax and NAB Chairman has stated that overall tax evasion amounts to Rs 7 billion per day. Disastrous energy policy regarding electricity, gas and POL, and the failure of regulatory bodies (such as NEPRA and OGRA), has caused immense hardships to the public, closure of many industries and shifting away of investment and industry from Pakistan has resulted.

This situation has intensified the already intolerable levels of unemployment, poverty and disease, resulting in criminalisation of the poor, who are constrained to adopt any activity (including theft, and kidnapping for ransom) for survival. Our burgeoning indebtedness to international monetary institutions (to the extent of Rs 80,000 for every Pakistani man, woman and child) has increased our dependence on foreign interference in our domestic affairs, compromised our sovereignty and led to hegemony and control over us by neo-colonialist powers whose agents are penetrating into our ranks through ‘religious’ propaganda, drone attacks and militancy to ensure confusion among the illiterate masses with a view of destabilising the state.

The CCP urges all mainstream political parties to unite against these failures. Elections must be held on time and in the supervision of an impartial interim government who has to guarantee free, fair, peaceful and transparent electoral process with the help of the army and the judiciary. We urge all political parties to include the following agenda in their manifestoes: To promote the rule of law; to eliminate corruption by setting exemplary patterns of behaviour themselves; to ensure across the board tax collection and disqualification from public office of persons found guilty of tax evasion; to get out of the war instigated by those who want to confine the theatre of war to Asia; to stop drone attacks; to address energy and water problems on priority basis; to practice simplicity and to increase budget for education; to create tolerance and harmony between different ethnic groups and sects; and to ensure respect and dignity of all citizens, particularly women, minorities and vulnerable groups.

The CCP urges citizens not to vote for any party, which omits any of the above items from its agenda and which fans the fires of hatred intolerance and extremism. The CCP members resolve that each and every one of us will contribute our best efforts to making Pakistan a peaceful, pluralistic and prosperous society.

Justice (R) NASIRA JAVID IQBAL,

Lahore, January 5.