QUETTA: ‘Mavericks’ from across the political spectrum on Saturday blamed all stakeholders, including political parties, the military establishment and the judiciary, for the problems faced by the masses and urged them to find a way out of the prevalent political and economic impasse in light of the Constitution, instead of focusing on a power struggle.
The event, titled ‘National Dialogue on Re-imagining Pakistan’ and organised by the Balochistan Peace Forum, was addressed by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, ex-senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Farhatullah Babar, Aslam and Lashkari Raisani, Khawaja Muhammad Hoti, as well as former finance minister Miftah Ismail, among others.
The speakers termed the current political system ‘ill-equipped’ to resolve the issues faced by the 230 million people of Pakistan, which was pushing the country toward economic and social crises.
Khaqan Abbasi said the gap between the public and the state was increasing since political parties were not interested in talking about issues faced by the public. According to the former prime minister, other countries were developing while the situation in Pakistan was deteriorating, as despite “remaining in the government and the opposition, we failed to resolve our problems”.
Abbasi blames judiciary for failure to end disappearances; Raisani laments Islamabad’s ‘intervention’ in provincial affairs
Mr Abbasi said the electoral system was rigged to keep the people’s representative out of power and added that a person who had obtained 55,000 ‘bogus votes’ was a member of parliament until Saturday. Speaking about the Senate elections, he said the individuals who manage to become members of the upper house after spending millions of rupees would have no interest to talk about the problems faced by the masses.
The issue of enforced disappearances was also brought up during the seminar. Mr Abbasi termed these disappearances a “failure of the justice system”, saying the courts did not play their due role in the recovery of missing persons. He said that despite terrorism, the justice system in various countries “continues to do its work and decide who is guilty and who is innocent”.
“There is a need to give a chance to the Constitution for the resolution of the people’s issues and protecting human rights,” Mr Abbasi said, adding that if there was a need for a new social contract, there should be dialogue on it.
Former Balochistan CM Aslam Raisani said Islamabad was not giving attention to the province’s issues and instead “disappearing our youths and political workers”. According to Mr Raisani, the establishment has not stopped interfering in the affairs of the province, as only a few days back, a senior military officer said that “if someone blocked roads, they would be arrested”.
He questioned the silence of the judiciary on the “disappearance of at least 9,000 persons, including political workers, in Balochistan”. Mr Raisani demanded an end to military operations in the southwestern province.
Miftah Ismail, the former finance minister, said there was a need to come up with a joint strategy to address the issues faced by Pakistan. Unemployment is not only limited to Balochistan but the entire country was facing it, he said, adding that at least 80 million people were living below the poverty line. Mr Ismail said, “We are spending Rs 2,000 billion on education but still could not succeed to improve the education system.”
He also talked about the mother-child’s health issues and said that 42 per cent of women were deficient in iron affecting the health of the children. He said that “we must think about how to increase the minimum wage from Rs35,000 to 100,000”.
Mr Hoti, a former federal minister, said the speakers gathered at the event had no plan to establish a new political party. He said that the seminar was organised to underscore issues not taken up in parliament.
He also criticised the double standards of establishment and said when Imran Khan “used abusive language against the army no action was taken against him but Ali Wazir, who is a member of parliament, is still in detention”.
As per Mr Hoti, going to elections was not a panacea to the ills faced by the country as “after three months, the country would face the same situation”. He said that before elections there was a need to sign an accord for the betterment of society and the economy.
Mr Khokhar said that the initiative was launched to highlight matters of public importance since political parties, “stuck in Panama and Toshakhana [issues]” had no time to attend to people’s problems. He said that the country was facing serious economic and political issues and claimed that 70 per cent of the youth wanted to migrate to other countries amid hopelessness.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2023