LAHORE  - Though expected, Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s decision to boycott the July 25 election is unjustified and ill-advised, to say the least.

Dr Tahirul Qadri said at a press conference on Saturday that his party would not take part in the electoral process as the entire system protects criminal elements involved in rigging, corruption, as well as those who spoke against the state. He said the approval of nomination papers filed by corrupt and bank defaulters has further shaken his belief in the system.

“Neither electoral reforms were brought about nor seriousness shown in the accountability process. The same bandits, plunderers and other criminals will reach the assemblies from different platforms”.

Qadri said of the over 21,000 candidates who have filed nomination papers, over 2,700 were involved in heinous crimes like murder, corruption, extortion, rape, human trafficking and money laundering.

There’s no denying the fact that the system is thoroughly corrupt and it accommodates the corrupt elements. But boycotting the elections is no solution. The PAT had earlier hinted at staying away from the electoral process when the candidates filed nomination papers, concealing the vital information that would have helped the voters to support or oppose a contestant. However, the Supreme Court’s subsequent order that made a submission of affidavit compulsory for every aspirant changed the situation. The declaration required them to reveal the very same information they were trying to conceal.

It is because of that affidavit that today people know which leader has how many assets. They can guess how those assets would have been made. The details of their taxes are also known to the electorate.

After this, one is at a loss to understand what else the PAT wants the apex court or the Election Commission of Pakistan to do at this stage to make the credentials of every candidate further transparent. The system can be reformed only by parliament, and better reforms could be suggested by the PAT by becoming part of the system.

In fact, the PAT should have put up more candidates for the July 25 election and tried to get more seats compared to any other party. Then in assembly it should have joined hands with other legislators to be able to bring required changes to the system.

There’s no other way to reform the ‘corrupt’ system.  The only other system was the ‘revolution’ brought about Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran in 1979. But to bring about that revolution Khomeini had had to do a long and testing struggle. Though he was in France, he stayed in touch with his people and prepared them for the revolution. Then a day came when Khomeini landed in Tehran and Shah of Iran had to flee.

What role has Dr Qadri played to bring about the change of his choice in Pakistan? Perhaps, no such role.

He has been based in Canada since long and has also got nationality of that country. He cannot lead a party or contest an election in Pakistan unless he surrenders Canada’s nationality.

It’s painful to point out that such a capable leader and a fiery speaker who can change public opinion through his strong arguments comes to Pakistan for short visits, creates a noisy situation for a while and then goes back, leaving his followers guessing about the schedule of his next visit.

This is no service to the country, and revolutions can’t be brought about through such casual visits.

If Dr Qadri really wants to bring about a change in Pakistan, he will have to stay in this country, prepare the people for the change – and take the struggle to its logical end. His permanent stay in Pakistan will raise people’s trust in him. His interaction with other like-minded parties will broaden his support base and make the future task easier.

But if he can’t do this for whatever reasons, he should better let the people continue to suffer at the hands of those elected by them. He should watch his own interests in Canada, without speaking about the rights people are not getting, or the lofty goals they can achieve under the guidance of an honest and competent leadership. The PAT should be disbanded and its adherents allowed to join other parties of their choice.