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Radical change needed due to leadership’s failure: UK diplomat

Published Jan 24, 2013 10:07pm

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British High Commissioner to Pakistan Adam Thomson. — Photo by Dawn

ISLAMABAD: British High Commissioner Adam Thomson said on Thursday Pakistan needed a radical change due to the political leadership’s failure to deliver, but cautioned against any unconstitutional move, including a prolonged caretaker government.

The British envoy further stressed on having an impartial caretaker government and an effective Election Commission for the credibility of coming elections.

“Pakistan needs radical change. Pakistan’s economy is not growing fast enough, Pakistan’s governments – federal and provincial -- are not delivering enough to the people,” Mr Thomson said, while talking about Dr Tahirul Qadri’s four-day sit-in in front of the Parliament. Dr Qadri’s demands included electoral reforms, reconstitution of the Election Commission and dismissal of federal and provincial governments.

However, Mr Thomson said, the change should be democratic and needs to come through Constitutional means, “not by storming parliament or prolonging a caretaker government beyond the constitutional provisions. It needs to be through the ballot box”.

The high commissioner used a chat with journalists invited at his residence to share his damning assessment of the political leadership, while raising questions about the leaders fulfilling standards set in the country’s Constitution for elected representatives.

He listed federal and provincial governments’ failures as ailing economy, power crisis and raging violent extremism.

Mr Thomson’s candid comments were quite unusual for a diplomat, particularly one from Britain, whose officials have been traditionally very cautious while commenting on political developments in the country even though some of them had in the past remained closely involved with a few political deals here.

Several questions were fired at him by journalists at the meeting in an effort to understand the reasons behind Mr Thomson’s ‘frank remarks’, but apparently couldn’t find the actual cause.

He said he felt concerned as be was an envoy of a country that is “a friendly observer and supporter of this country (Pakistan)”.

The ambassador said many Pakistani politicians shared his appraisal.

He stressed that democracy did not just mean elections, it was rather about delivering.

“The point we are trying to make is that democracy is not just about elections. It is about living up to the standards you set. It is about politicians as role models. It is about earning the trust of the people and delivering for the people.”

He had word of praise for protesters, who staged the sit-in last week in harsh winter, saying he saluted “the fact that tens of thousands of Pakistanis successfully demonstrated peacefully for things they cared about and that is given history in this country, a noteworthy and encouraging achievement.”

Mr Thomson said the sit-in was an “authentic expression” of discontentment of millions of ordinary Pakistanis who are not just concerned about them not getting the services, but “whether their political leaders are indeed accountable. Whether they are delivering for ordinary Pakistanis, and whether they are themselves meeting the high standards set for them in Pakistan’s constitution”.

However, he said, talk of unconstitutional means during the sit-in worried the British government.

“The demonstration in Islamabad had heard some very fiery rhetoric which at least to us sounded as though it was calling for action that went well beyond the Constitution.”

He urged all stakeholders to respect and adhere to the Constitution.