In 2005, when the situation in the country, especially Karachi, was not as bad as it is today, Helpline Trust, together with Shehri and a group of concerned citizens, had organised a Citizen’s Rally, in the hope of galvanising the silent majority to stand up and demand good governance, enforcement of the rule of law and accountability, in order to improve the quality of life for themselves and their children.

To promote the rally, the programme had been well advertised through faxes and emails, including an advertisement in local English daily. No political parties had been invited and we had requested citizens, professionals, business organizations, trade bodies, NGOs, etc. to take ownership of their city and walk behind two main banners: “We, the citizens matter and demand a better quality of life” and “We are the sovereign citizens and owners and want accountability from our Elected Representatives.”

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we were disappointed, as the response pathetic and only a hand full of citizens participated in the rally. It seemed that the silent majority, who have the most to lose, did not really care as to what happens to their city or their country. They prefer to restrict their criticism and protests within the confines of their comfortable drawing rooms in their ivory towers. Even the print and electronic media had not been supportive.

Now, eight years later, when we have almost reached rock bottom, even our democratically elected government has failed to protect the life and property of the citizens.

And yet, the citizens refuse to stand up for their rights and take ownership of this city, as sovereign owners and allow corrupt and incompetent parliamentarians, who are responsible for destroying this country, to play havoc with their lives.

And the main reason why our past and present governments have failed to establish good governance is because those who sit in our parliaments and Senate are the least interested in improving the quality of lives of the citizens who have voted for them.

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, they are not even eligible to be parliamentarians, as most have violated  Article 62 (f) of the Constitution, which states that to qualify to be a member of Majlis-e-Shura (Parliament), a person has to be sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen.

At present, those who sit in our parliaments and Senate do not meet these conditions, as some of them have dual nationalities, bogus degrees, are loan defaulters, tax dodgers, who do not even pay their utility bills, etc.

So one fails to understand as to what is wrong with Dr Tahirul Qadri’s demands, that those who do not meet the criteria of Article 62 (f) of the Constitution, should be disqualified as per Article 63 and only those who are eligible, should be allowed to participate in the coming election.  

My friend Col Riaz has stated: “Whether he is a Saint or Sinner, doesn’t make a difference. I am just concerned with what he says and demands, that is; a Clean and Honest Electoral System, to give us good and honest people to elect from. My question to all his detractor is simple. Do they want the candidates for the coming elections to be honest, sagacious, non-profligate and ameen or not or do they want the same old Ali Baba and his forty thieves to govern us?”

However, the few things that cast a dark shadow of doubt on Dr TQ’s motives and his Islamabad March on January 14 are, why did he wait so long to launch his Electoral Reforms campaign, especially when the elections are just a few months away?

What is the real agenda behind his sudden appearance and what is the source of his funding? And if he was such a patriot, where was he and his Trust during the 2005 earthquake, which killed at least 86,000 people and left 69,000 injured? And the devastating floods of 2010, which left more than 1,600 citizens and effected over 13 million citizens? These questions have naturally led to speculations about the real motive behind the March.

But Dr TQ’s demand for reforms in the electoral process have also been raised by MQM and PTI over the years. Unless the corrupt and the dishonest are removed from our Assemblies and Senate, the election would be an exercise in futility and we will end up with the same old, disreputable parliamentarians again as our representatives and a sham democracy.

So the question is, knowing the fact that the present system of governance has failed, why is PTI and the citizens not offering their support and joining Dr. TQ’s march on the capital, in a display of people’s power?

Will Dr TQ’s March be able to establish a Tahrir Square in Islamabad and become the ominous Ides of March, which saw the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire and also be the fate of the PPP government and the present system of governance?

But then, to AZ and his government’s credit, a number of Ides of March have come and gone, but his government has survived them all and for the first time in our political history, is about to complete its five year term.  

But the panic in the corridors of power and of the Untouchables is clearly visible and is having the effect of releasing a fox in a chicken coop. And in its usual knee jerk reaction, the government has started blocking the roads in Islamabad with ugly containers and barbed wires and some areas of Islamabad are under virtual ‘lock down’.

However, after the drone attack from London, in which The Quaid became a victim of collateral damage, the efforts of All The King’s Men did succeed in pressurising MQM to withdraw from Dr TQ’s March. But despite this sudden set back, the threat of a terrorist attack, violence and a law and order situation, they could not succeed in stopping the Doctor and his merry men and women from marching to Islamabad.

And now, knowing what is in store for us, if we still do not demand a change in the system of governance, then the fault will not be in our stars, but in ourselves. As they say, ‘If not now, then when? – If not us, then who?’

(email: trust@helplinetrust.org)