LAHORE - As the January 10 deadline set by Dr Tahirul Qadri for the formation of a caretaker setup in consultation with all stakeholders, including the army and the judiciary, is drawing nearer, those whose interests are likely to be affected have stepped up criticism of the man whose demand has set off a firestorm of controversy. His critics are reiterating their commitment to adhere to the Constitution in all situations and not let anyone derail the democratic system. Many have alleged that the Tehrik Minhajul Quran chairman has returned to Pakistan, after a six-year stay in Canada, with the backing of some foreign powers to enforce his own agenda. This is despite the fact that the TMQ chief has said on oath that he doesn’t want to derail the system, has no foreign support, political or financial. While it is very encouraging that parties are so strongly committed to adhering to the Constitution, no military intervention in the past would have been possible if all these ‘champions’ had shown half the commitment then. But they had fallen prey to their expediencies then and want to serve their personal interests now.It is being argued that the judiciary and the army have no constitutional role in the selection of a caretaker setup, Dr Qadri’s demand is uncalled for.True. It is precisely for the absence of their role that that the TMQ chief says the two main parties will go for a ‘give and take’ and choose such people to conduct the elections as will serve only their interests, not the interests of the country.The very fact that the PML-N and the PPP are now prepared to join hands to thwart Dr Qadri’s plan, forgetting their serious differences on other issues, proves that personal interests are the only consideration of these parties and they can indulge in mutual ‘back-scratching’. For this purpose, they can sacrifice their principles and commitments, if any.An English language newspaper published on October 29, 2010, a conversation PML-N President Nawaz Sharif had with the media.It says Mr Sharif proposed that a 25-year ‘Pakistan Charter’ should be worked out through national consensus. “All people, including judges, politicians, generals and lawyers have to sit together to lead our country out of difficulties it is facing today”, said the former prime minister.Now the question is: Is there any provision in the Constitution which permits the generals and judges to play a role in preparing a charter for the country, as proposed by Mr Sharif? The answer is NO. The PML-N leadership had given the proposal for the sake of a greater national consensus. (Some people had commented then that the idea was an attempt by the former prime minister to get closer to the armed forces which are opposed to Mr Sharif’s return to power because of the past bitterness between the two).Shouldn’t Dr Qadri’s proposal be taken in the same spirit? Even if it is not expressly provided in the Constitution, the judges and generals should also be taken on board in the selection of a caretaker setup. Their involvement will help bring better people to the fore and elections held under their supervision will be acceptable to all.As for the electoral reforms sought by Dr Qadri, nobody has disagreed with him. The difference of opinion expressed by various parties is on the timing and the methodology. His critics advise him to contest the election and then get the reforms introduced.In other words, the major parties are determined to get elected the so-called electables, no matter how questionable their integrity. And once such a lot reaches the assemblies, they will try to stay there for full term. Who can outnumber them and get any legislation passed against their interests?The stuff in power for the past five years fully explains why there is an urgent need for reforms before polls.The president of Pakistan is a person the Punjab PML-N president and chief minister Shahbaz Sharif calls ‘Zar Baba’ and his associates as ‘thieves’. He has repeatedly alleged that the president and his aides were involved in looting the national resources and that the PML-N leadership would bring the entire looted wealth abroad back to the country.Awami Muslim League President Sheikh Rashid used to call Mr Zardari as Mr 10 Percent, an ‘honorific’ that was ‘accepted’ even by the world media.Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is involved in the rental power plants scam. He was called ‘Raja Rental’ because of the allegation. The Supreme Court Chief Justice said a few days ago that the man against whom the apex court had ordered action was made the prime minister.The reputation of former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and his two legislator sons is known to everyone.How principled are our political leaders can be gauged from the fact that many Musharraf supporters are now with the PML-N. Humayun Akhtar (Commerce minister during the Musharraf period) called on the PML-N president a few months ago and a local newspaper reported that he had given Rs 150 million (in the name of party fund and flood relief) to Mr Sharif. In return, he was promised a National Assembly ticket from a Faisalabad seat and a Senate seat to his brother. The report was never denied by either side.Will anyone believe that the ‘investors’ are so selfless?When the parties award tickets to various candidates for the next elections, they will receive millions, perhaps billions, from the aspirants – and there will be no record of such receipts. And when such people get elected, they recover their full ‘investment’ with dividends. In such a situation, what’s wrong in demanding reforms as could help bring honest people to the assemblies?