Depoliticization of Police – and KP

Current IG KP – Nasir Khan Durrani

So depolitization of police is the talk of the town nowadays. From the army chief declaring to depoliticize the Sindh Police for peace in Karachi to CM Balochistan Dr. Abdul Malik saying the same for Baluchistan Police. But in the discussion about depoliticization one hardly, if ever, sees any references to the remarkable example set by PTI leadership in KP – and Imran Khan – who has consistently led the call for depoliticizing institutions such as the police in Pakistan.

What the army chief is trying to attempt in Karachi, PTI has already accomplished in KP – that is a police force which is operationally independent of any political influence. So how has this been achieved? It’s simple – a high level decision by the political leadership to give complete charge to the IG of the province (see video below) – whose reputed to be among the most credible police officers of Pakistan. But if you look at Punjab, Sindh and perhaps Baluchistan it becomes not-so-simple. The top bosses in each province are not strong enough or not willing enough to end political interference in transfers, postings and operations of the police.

How does that affect overall policing and rule of law? One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure this out. The idea that the police bosses are under the influence of political bosses instead of solely the law of the land is antithetical to the whole concept of rule of law. A police force rife with politically appointed or transferred officers can never be the upholders of the law especially in the case of the rich and the powerful who often find refuge with many of our politicians. Sure, some criminals will be caught, normal policing may continue, but a politicized police force will never be able to take a stand against the high and the mighty and so will never be able to command trust and respect of the general public.

So coming back to KP, what has PTI exactly achieved there? Depoliticization of the police has had several “side effects” if you may. The first has been the effect on corruption in the force. IG KP has proved by his actions that he’s not only a man of integrity himself but also has the ability to ensure the same in the force. More than three hundred officers of all ranks have been dismissed from service on corruption charges – and only after a process of a preliminary and then a proper inquiry. Action is taken against any slight report of corruption or bribery by the IG himself – though recently this authority has been devolved to the level of DPOs as well.

In a recent case of a media report of bribes taken by some police officers, prompt identification was made (within few days) and appropriate action taken. This can be contrasted with a case of Punjab Police – where bribe was demanded from CM KP himself on a visit to Punjab – widely disseminated by PTI leadership during the dharna days. One is yet to hear of what action was taken, if any, by the Punjab Police in that particular case.

Unhindered or troubled by political interference, KP Police has also in the past year embarked on doing what they should be doing – that is enhancing their capacity and training to counter the challenge of terrorism especially in a front-line province such as KP. There was a good emphasis on safety of policemen – esp after increasing incidents of target killing on the same. We also saw a focus on establishment of specialized training schools to build the capacity of KP Police in terms of investigation, intelligence, explosives handling, even public disorder management – which seems much needed but unheard of in a country where “police gardi” is notorious.

Led by IG KP, there have been serious realistic proposals to counter terrorism in the province which is the biggest challenge at this point. Some of these are still pending with the Federal Govt since they relate to the tribal areas or require federal approval, but some have been implemented such as new legislation for enhancing monitoring of rented places, hotels and measures to ensure vulnerable places in the province take some responsibility for their security as well. It is interesting to note, after the National Action Plan against terrorism was approved, Punjab govt copied in toto some of these laws in their own province as well. KP has built up its Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and now a special elite squad for commando action in case of terrorist attacks in the province.

A photo of women commandos from KP special combat unit

The KP Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU) has been strengthened and their allowances increased – while expanding them to other districts of the province. Suffice to say, the BDU plays an essential role in saving lives by defusing hundreds of bombs every year – sometimes several in a single day. Police pays in general were also increased soon after PTI came into power – but only after the process of weeding out the corrupt had been started.

KP Police has also been striving to introduce internal accountability. Recently they introduced an SMS based complaint system for any kind of complaint or service – including registration of FIR. This was the first of its kind in any province (which was introduced province wide). A better complaint system has perhaps helped the police leadership in identifying and taking action where needed. For instance, more recently, we’ve been seeing cases of action against investigation officers for faulty investigations. This is of course nothing new – only going back to the basics – of how the police should be to ensure rule of law.

Dispute Resolution Councils is another initiative worth mentioning, which seems to be working quite well since their formation, resolving petty disputes free of cost for many who’d prefer speedy justice then lengthy (and expensive) court proceedings.

Initiatives are nice though, but remain useless unless they help the bottom line i.e. law and order in KP. Though general policing seems to have improved and a recent report also highlights reduction in terror incidents and civilian casualties in the same, but the police has been unable till now to prevent large scale terrorist attacks. The recent APS attack and Imambargah attack point to the same. Suffice to say, increased, concerted efforts need to be made – despite the valid concerns about the surrounding tribal areas and the fallout of operations there coupled with lack of cooperation e.g. in case of FC return by the federal government.

In conclusion, KP Police might not be there yet in terms of delivering peace to the public, but the direction is surely correct – for the first time perhaps. One can be sure given a few more years, when the more institutional reforms pay off, we can realize the dream of a peaceful KP – something which PTI was voted in for in the province. Meanwhile, more power to the dream of depoliticization of all government institutions and more power to those who continue to push for them.

How the KP IMU is improving education governance at the lowest level

PTI came to power in KP with the simple but attractive slogan of education and health for all. However, the state where our education system esp simple governance is it was understood it would not be an overnight change at all. When KP Education Minister Atif took over the reins of the Education Ministry almost everything needed to be “fixed”. One of the first thing perhaps was to have adequate information to deal with the problem at hand. Therefore, we saw soon after getting a sense of the challenge at hand, KP govt establishing an “independent” monitoring unit to accurately gauge the level of govt education in the province.

What is this Independent Monitoring Unit (or IMU)? It’s a unit “independent” of the education dept having its own district structure and management, along with about 475 monitors (both male and female) each having smartphones with GPS so as to record information about each school, primary or secondary, across the province every month. Being “independent” was necessary since education bureaucracy could often mislead as to the real situation on ground due to various reasons – ranging from lethargy to association with teachers developed overtime or simply to hide their own failures. One can see many ghost schools across Pakistan which on paper are completely operational – all thanks to reports from the bureaucracy and a political leadership which doesn’t care that much about what’s happening on ground.

The monitors were recruited through transparent NTS tests and the unit became functional in March 2014. Since then we’ve been seeing reports in the media about the effects this has been having – esp at the district level where the bureaucracy is now forced to act in many cases – faced with authentic reports about teacher’s absences etc.

Recently with help from a friend, I got hold of the IMU report for September 2014. It shows just how much effect simple monitoring can have on improving governance in any govt department. The report presents some very encouraging statistics.

First let’s take a look at teachers and students. Teacher absenteeism is a very common problem leading to closed schools and student absences as well. The IMU monitors noted teachers who were absent without any authorized leave. When they surveyed in March for the first time, it was discovered that about 30% teachers were absent. The following graph however shows the wonders of simple monitoring – this number reduced by almost half in a few months – by September this was 16%.

Teacher Absenteeism from March to September

Teacher Absenteeism from March to September

Why? Teachers realized there is someone watching and they can be held accountable as well.

Then students absenteeism. The IMU monitors noted students (after physical counts) present against those found in school register. When survey was conducted in March, the student absenteeism was found to be 48% (which is huge). However, by September this number reduced to 21%.

Student Attendance from March to September

Student Attendance from March to September

One could guess why and how this came about. Either because of fear of increased monitoring or improved teacher attendance or because of recent curriculum changes by KP govt or other factors. However, more students coming to school is a very welcome development indeed.

Related to both students and teachers is the closed schools problem. Here the survey showed similar trends. In March, about 11% were closed due to teacher-student absenteeism. By September this dropped to about 4%.

Closed schools in KP due to various reasons

Closed schools in KP due to various reasons

These developments are quite encouraging. And now that the KP Education Dept has it down to a level, various others measures can be used to bring it further down such as punitive measures for teachers who are habitually absent or students who are absent etc.

Further, we have school infrastructure problems. Since these aren’t a mere monitoring issue, they mostly remain unchanged. Electricity is one worrying indicator with about 44% schools not having power. About 37% have no water facilities available. 25% dont have toilet facilities available. And about 27% don’t have boundary walls. These provide a good idea of the challenge for KP govt and probably why it was thought that a campaign like Tameer-e-School was needed. How much it helps improve these statistics we’ll know in future reports.

Overall trends from March to September

Overall trends from March to September

Some other bits from the IMU report that I’d like to mention.

  1.  Administrative visits: There’s a section in the report about the district education bureaucracy visits to the schools (which is their mandated role). As it turns out, only 29% of schools were visited by the district admin. This gives an idea of the problem. Now whether it is because of lethargy or capacity issues, one can’t say. However, this is a good indicator to measure the performance of the bureaucracy and gaps in service delivery at the lowest level.
  2. Special schemes: The report also has a section on the monitoring of a scheme meant to encourage girl students by giving them a stipend every month. In March to May, it shows the girls without stipends were from 14-20%. By September, this had dropped to about 6% – which gives us an idea of the scheme’s implementation at lowest level. Similarly, other similar special initiatives can be monitored in future as well to ensure proper implementation.

Reports such as these when combined with the fact that they’ll be monthly provide the KP govt with a regular insight into the problems at hand while also providing for accountability of staff at the lowest level. It will also help the Education Department in measuring the affects of various special initiatives and efforts at improving the govt education system e.g. by enrollment drives or curriculum or teacher training.

In conclusion, the IMU may not be a very flashy initiative in terms of news headlines (to be noticed e.g. by channels such as Capital TV), but it is a most important one. The change through this will only be witnessed at the lowest level. I believe KP govt also recognizes the same (though bit late) as hiring is underway for a similar monitoring system in the health department. I hope it gives similar if not better results in improving governance in the health sector as well. Meanwhile, KP Education Dept has a lot of work ahead of them.

A copy of the IMU report for September 2014 can be seen here.

Recent news pieces related to IMU in KP newspapers can be seen here.

The PTI Jalsa’s and politics after

A breathtaking view of the Lahore Jalsa

And so it was repeated. Karachi came out in large numbers not much different from 25 Dec 2011 – and welcomed Imran Khan, joining in PTI’s campaign of “Go Nawaz Go” and electoral reform. Having attended the jalsa myself I can say it was reminiscent of the previous one. The crowds were a mix of people from all over Karachi – from all strata of society. Near where I was standing (yes most were standing), there was a whole family from Lyari. It felt good to be standing alongside Pakistanis from different areas of Karachi but sharing a similar dream of “Naya Pakistan” – a sort of extended family which have now come to hold similar ideas about how Pakistan should be and see hope in the shape of Imran Khan and PTI. I saw no negativity there – it was a festive mood all over – people were singing, clapping to national songs.

Since I was in Karachi and noticing the excitement among my peers and acquaintances (esp on social media), I kind of expected what we saw in Karachi. But Lahore exceeded expectations and seems to have shocked the status quo. The turnout was huge and this time watched in all its glory from the truthful eyes of the drone cameras. By most accounts, it easily surpassed the 30 October 2011 PTI Jalsa at the same venue.

So what really happened since PTI campaign started? Why do we see visible increasing support for Imran Khan since the past few weeks? It seems sometime during the campaign when the “crisis” was at its height and even amidst strong criticism on some of PTI’s controversial moves – things just got too black and white for many Pakistanis watching. Add to that the Joint Session of Parliament and the “status quo” getting more than cosy again for all to see, only Imran Khan stood out as the lone warrior fighting for justice and “true democracy” in the interests of the people. Many of our journos criticize IK’s speeches for being repetitive – but watching these for past month (and more) has helped hammer in the PTI point of view among most of the public. As an article in DAWN said the other day, people have become accustomed to listening to IK every night at a specific time.

“Professor” Imran Khan during his daily speech at about 9:30 PM, Pakistan time🙂

This “campaigning” seems to have generated a groundswell of PTI support, esp among the youth perhaps not dissimilar to the one we saw after the 30th October Lahore Jalsa – when PTI emerged on the political map. I first noticed this when completely apolitical people (among friends and family) on social media started posting political messages. In 2011, post 25 December Jalsa in Karachi, PTI lost this momentum due to internal party reorganization. However this time they show no immediate plans to do so.

After Karachi, Lahore and Mianwali jalsa, many more are planned countrywide including in KP. Shah Mehmood Qureshi seems to be chalking out a program for Sindh as well – with a Larkana jalsa already announced. It seems PTI has already started its election campaign and would like to continue the same message into possible mid term elections. PPP and parties such as JI now seem forced into some form of campaigning themselves with Bilawal being “launched” once more in Karachi soon.

Where do we go from here? Seems uncertain at this point. An indication would be PTI resignations from the National Assembly. If they’re finally accepted, mid term elections could be a distinct possibility. The other option would be for a compromise and PTI returning to the assemblies and all parties joining in for an electoral reform package. At this point, the former option seems more probable. In the meantime, let’s just enjoy this outpouring of public support for greater rights in a democracy and a better future for Pakistan and do away with cynicism. Time to dream again?

SDPI survey and closer look at governance comparison of provinces

With the rising political heat on the PML-N in the run up to the PTI long march to Islamabad, we’re seeing almost daily statements by PML-N leaders, media reps and of course our BBC model PTV News about all things PTI. Among them is also the oft repeated retort “Imran Khan ne KP me kia karlia?” – meaning in other words that PTI as a party should be wholly concentrated on KP governance and not come near demanding any reform at the center.

This question has become so prevalent now that on almost any argument with PML-N supporters on governance at the center, the debate usually ends up with “to Imran Khan ne KP mein kia karlia?”. Some PTI supporters have come up with good jokes about this as well.

Thankfully though, we now have at least some data where we can answer this question – based on of course what the people of KP think (being the ultimate beneficiaries). We saw indications about KP governance from some earlier surveys as well. For instance, Gallup Pakistan came up with a survey measuring satisfaction rates of people of four provinces. KP came highest with 57% satisfaction while other provinces some way behind. Similar results were seen in a survey conducted by PTI through IRIS (though higher percentages).

The latest is a survey from May this year conducted by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) for Herald magazine. Abid Suleri heads this organization and conducted an election related poll before May 11 General Elections – predicting most of the results quite well. While Gallup Pakistan predicted PMLN + JUIF in KP for instance, SDPI poll accurately predicted a PTI + JI coalition. Similarly, the poll also indicated the PTI popularity in Karachi almost rivaling that of MQM – which we all saw to surprise of many on May 11.

This time though, SDPI, apart from asking usual questions about political party ratings also went on to conduct a quite detailed survey on provincial governments and federal government’s performance in various sectors. While people’s views about the federal government are well presented in this DAWN piece, what is interesting is comparison of provincial governments (mysteriously under reported in the media).

Two sets of findings are particularly encouraging for PTI in KP.

First, Corruption – On asking whether the government was doing enough to control corruption in KP, response as quoted

Only respondents from KP gave positive answer regarding their province. 20% more said the provincial government was making adequate efforts to control corruption than those who disagreed.

A graph which shows the comparison of public opinion on the issue. It’s clear the perception of corruption in KP among the people has receded. While we find in other provinces (esp in Sindh), more people report “rampant” corruption, in KP the tide seems to be turning. Note that Independent Accountability has yet to start through the soon to be operational KP Ehtesab Commission – so this may only be a result of top to bottom accountability through administrative efforts in the first year.

Corruption

Rated on a scale of (1-5). 1 being lowest, 5 being highest. Source: Herald July 2014 edition

 

Second, overall governance ranking. When asked about performance of the government in various sectors, the response as quoted was:

KP given highest rating (> 70%) for improvements in both health and education sectors. Only 2% said no improvement has been made against about 12% in Punjab.

Graphical depiction of the same, along with other provinces is given below. PTI’s efforts seem have to paid off in keeping a focus on service delivery in health and education sectors. It’s an achievement that people on ground have started noticing within an year. In comparison, Punjab got a response (though less in proportion) for physical infrastructure according to the priorities of the leadership there. Sindh again gives dismal performance.

 

Governance Overall

Improvements witnessed in various governance areas. Source: Herald July 2014 edition.

 

Then we also have Law and Order. Here provincial governments give similar performance, although Sindh does worst in that most consider situation worsened. In KP, greatest number say situation improved – maybe due to comparative reduction in large scale bomb attacks.

Law and Order

Law and Order comparisons. Red means improvement, Black means no change and Green means worsened. Source: Herald July 2014 edition.

 

Lastly, we also have questions about which sectors have worsened under provincial governments, which give a good idea about where increased focus is required. PTI in KP in the first year remained busy in legislative agenda and ensuring systems are in place which affected the spending of development funds. This seems to have been noticed by the people in ratings on physical infrastructure. Second and with greater unanimity is about Industry – important for employment. Punjab needs to focus on health and education (perhaps a reminder for some federal ministers who keep reminding Imran Khan of the same in KP). Sindh needs to focus on everything it seems.

Worsening sectors

Which sectors need improvement/worsened. Source: Herald July 2014 edition.

 

So concluding, it is apparent PTI has seen some successes in health and education and corruption eradication in KP, judging from public opinion (of course any survey is only an indication). However, lot needs to be done and it is hoped that persistent efforts at fundamental reform continue to be apparent to the public – necessary to sustain the process. Complacency is no option for PTI – Health particularly needs increased focus on management issues.

One hopes, SDPI and other pollsters continue this trend of detailed governance related surveys so that we can have objective discussions on the media/civil society about the same.

“Good Governance” and media projection

How do you measure governance in Pakistan? Which of the provinces is best governed?

Answers to such questions is easy for those who read and have access to measurable metrics and indicators of good governance and progress in reform. Those who take out time to research and look up facts before making up their minds objectively based on them. But what about those who don’t have access to such information or rely on only our media both electronic and print? One can argue how much, but perception about good governance is then built up on the amount of favorable media coverage you manage to get.

It is then no surprise that you’re seeing nowadays several minutes of advertisements on all major TV channels and half page ads on print media singing praises of the PML-N government’s seemingly many (worthy) initiatives. As if this wasn’t enough, we also have our “best governed” Punjab province also in severe need of giving out ads to show just how much work is being done there. Of course such ads have prominent positions for Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif and the new entrant to the Kingdom, Maryam Nawaz. In the past few months (since coincidentally PTI’s anti rigging protests) we’ve seen ads of all sorts from inaugurations of power projects, to loan schemes to even the latest Punjab budget (which is yet to be spent). And it continues even to this day.

So why the fuss? Really harmless projection? Not really. We know very well all of these ads are being paid for through government funds, in other words, our hard earned tax money. So our money is being effectively wasted to project the Sharif dynasty and how they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing in any case? Perceptions are being subtly built up about how Nawaz is working non stop and Shahbaz Sharif is always ever ready for the next notice on whatever rape case is currently in the news in Punjab.

But this is not the worst of it. Reality is Punjab is not the only province doing “something” for the people. In fact, based on what I’ve been following since elections, KP has been doing more in terms of structural changes in the existing system. If KP government even spends half of what our Sharif bros are spending on ads in the mainstream media with the initiatives PTI has undertaken in the first year, Pervez Khattak could overnight become a star. But KP government doesn’t do this. Because it is simply not PTI policy to waste tax payers money on self projection. So instead PTI mostly uses (free) social media outlets to spread information about KP reform and some videos like the above.

Doesn’t look that good? Wait till you run this video on all major TV channels round the clock at peak times and then see how many people ask the oft repeated question “Imran Khan ne KP mein kia karlia?”. Such projection works, even if temporarily in building perceptions. So effectively PTI in KP pays the price for not misusing government funds on shameless self projection. And where are our media anchors? Few such as Nadeem Malik raise their voice on such blatant misuse. Others like Talat Hussain can write whole articles on PTI’s internal issues, but apparently don’t find time to utter a single condemnation of such ads. Some probably think it’s good “politics” by PML-N while waiting for PTI to do this so they can start criticism on the same.

The result then is that PTI faces pressure by all and sundry to project it’s achievements in KP just like PPP and PML-N do, which PTI can’t. But at some point they’ll have to. One would expect PTI to resist such temptation and arrange its own funds for the purpose not unlike the election campaign for GE 2013. In the absence of any interest by the media though, it seems PTI will remain a lone warrior on this front.

Conflict of Interest Law in KP – a short overview.

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Conflict Of Interest. Something that we keep hearing about and in various corruption stories that find their way to the media. It is any situation in which a person finds a conflict between his public duties and his personal and business affairs. Conflict of interest situations can easily lead to large scale corruption even at the highest levels in government – in fact can be called as a sophisticated way of corruption which seems to have been mastered in Pakistan. In its efforts to bring good governance in KP, PTI has recently introduced a Conflict of Interest Law in the provincial assembly. I will present here a brief summary of what the law entails and how it aims to prevent such situations (and hence help curb corruption and nepotism).

Who is a public office holder? The law applies to all public office holders and it seems to cover comprehensively everyone including Chief Minister, Ministers, Advisors, Special Assistants, civil servants. It also covers KP Assembly members, Speaker and also judges of the subordinate judiciary in KP. The basic gist of the law is meant to prohibit public office holders from using their position of power to influence anything to do with their personal or business affairs or affairs of their family members.

What is prohibited under the law? (Salient points)

  1. Prohibition of any employment or business while holding public office
  2. Prohibition of accepting gifts reasonably seen to have the power to influence decisions.
  3. Prohibition of traveling in chartered or private aircraft except as a government functionary. (Our PM may have a problem here in traveling on Mian Mansha’s plane)
  4. Prohibition of participation in a decision which would constitute as conflict of interest.
  5. Prohibition of going into contract with family members unless public office holder is detached from the process, which has to be impartial.

Declaration of assets? The law has also tied in these provisions with others about declaration of assets and liabilities of public office holders, so that it becomes transparent and anomalies can be promptly investigated. In that respect, public office holders will have to provide a confidential disclosure including the following:

  1. Statement of assets and liabilities
  2. Detail of income in the year before becoming public office holder
  3. Expected income after becoming public office holder
  4. Above information for dependent(s) and spouse(s) as well
  5. Gifts by strangers if value is more than Rs. 10,000 in an year.

Note that I’m only giving here the salient points, Otherwise the law includes all forms of conflict of interest situations that can be possibly conceived. The disclosure above is meant to create transparency and make it easier to detect undue favors that our public office holders seem to be used to nowadays.

Of course, the natural question then is that it looks good on paper but how is it going to be implemented?

The law envisions a three member KP Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commission, appointed by the Chief Minister. The Commission has the job to enforce the provisions of this law, receive the disclosure statements, and investigate and take action in case of complaints by any member of the provincial assembly, or any member of the public or even take suo motu notice of any apparent conflict of interest issue that comes to light in the public domain.

What powers does the commission have? It will have the power to declare public office holders as guilty of conflict of interest and impose fines/penalties which are meant to ensure the law is followed. The Commission can also forward the case for disciplinary action against the public office holder according to law (e.g. to the accountability commission or anti corruption establishment).

So will it make a difference? If the Commission appointed is powerful and credible enough, it definitely will make a difference. It provides another layer of accountability that aims to “prevent” corruption rather than exclusively rely on accountability after corrupt practices are detected. Of course the provisions point to an ideal environment which would take some time to come into effect completely especially since it has become a culture in our political circles. But it is a push in the right direction and it is a “revolution” in itself that a major political party is pushing such reform while traditional parties hardly ever even talk about such things. Doing something about them is another matter altogether.

One hopes the law to be passed soon and some examples set so that we see how important reform can happen in Pakistan if there is political will to do so. It is with initiatives like these that PTI keeps hope alive in those who want to see a more accountable political elite which does not spend its energies on personal enrichment but for public welfare.

Return of Dr. Tahir ul Qadri and the “revolution”

So we seem to be back again to the same point which we found ourselves in just a bit before elections last year. Dr. TuQ is back to Pakistan after a gap of a year and thanks to the PML-N is getting exactly what he would’ve liked that is a LOT of attention from the media.

Dr. Tahir ul Qadri

PML-N despite being an experienced political player can’t seem to get around the fact that by over reacting to Dr. Sb’s arrival and calls for revolution/street protests, they’re only playing into his hands. The Lahore Model Town tragedy was a disaster in every sense of the word. Few times I’ve seen PML-N being pounced on from left right and center all over the media. Many called it unprecedented negative media coverage. Similar scenes were witnessed right before Dr. Sb was about to land in Islamabad as well. DAWN’s headline today read “Islamabad and Pindi sealed” – surely gives an impression of a government panicking like anything. The plane diversion also created lots of of hype in Dr. Sb’s favor.

So why the panic in PML-N ranks? Seems to point to an underlying insecurity and fear. Musharraf case and civil military/media tension recently may be one of the reasons. Or maybe the PML-N knows all too well it’s standing on shaky ground what with continuous revelations of rigging in various Punjab constituencies. The pressure to perform may be another reason – and the heavy spending by both Punjab and Federal Government on media advertisements highlights this well. For the first time, I’ve seen even Punjab budget being advertised.

In all this panic, Dr. Tahir ul Qadri seems to be upping the ante and calling for a ‘revolution’  just like he did a year ago. There’s a lot of talk of ‘Inquilab’ or ‘revolution’ again, but this time less is being said of what exactly that means. We know the last time it didn’t go that well – and Dr. Sb was left to deal with the very people he was charging against. A resolution was signed but was forgotten by all it seems.

So what will happen? More likely, it may be a repeat of what we saw last year. Of course, PTI factor could become crucial, since PTI has its grievances related to election rigging and from what we’re hearing is close to announcing a deadline to the government for its demand of verification of four constituencies. More trouble for PML-N if these two forces combine – though PTI seems to be keeping a distance at this point.

Personally, I’m not that great a fan of “revolution” as is repeated ad nausea. It’s like that quick fix which is unlikely to work. Take Egypt for example, a revolution as we saw kicked out Hosni Mubarak. We thought it would usher in a new era of genuine democracy. What we saw not very long after however was another revolution kicking the previous ‘revolution’ instead. Few would now say Egypt is something to be proud of. We might not go that way hopefully, but street protests have a habit of sliding out of control – and into the hands of various forces.

Having said that however, status quo as it is is not an option either. There must be sustained pressure for genuine electoral reform. If Dr. Tahir ul Qadri helps to that end, he might very well be doing Pakistan’s democracy a favor in the ultimate analysis.