Electoral System in Pakistan has always remained a question mark upon the elected representative and the election Commission of Pakistan. Pakistan is a democratic country where five year tenure is fixed for every party to complete and installs the interim Government itself with consultation of opposition party leader for both the National and Provincial Assemblies.
The Democracy has been undergoing the process of transformation and transition, and the people have not tested or reaped the fruit of true democracy .With frequent Coup D’états, Pakistan has remained more under rule of Military leaders than the elected Civilian Government. The Political confrontation and denial or disrespect of mandate of parties led the Separation of Bangladesh in 1971 when Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-rahman’s Awami League was denied to hand over the power besides having a simple majority or thumping majority .
Had they (Bengalis) have been given chance to form the Government, the scenario should have completely change. The handing over of the rein may be considered a key issue but there were other factors which prompted them to opt for independence such Justice, equal rights and humiliation on the grounds ethnicity.
Pakistan presents a bleak picture of Political tenures if compared with our neighboring India where electoral system has improved with the passage of time and the democracy has been transformed into real democracy where every Government completes its term and goes away and Chief Election Commissioner becomes the head of the Governments and holds elections in phases and hands over the reins of Country in the hands of Party having simple majority or the party leading any coalition.
In Pakistan, in last five decades from 1947 to 1999, the country was ruled by mighty Armed Forces Heads by imposing Marshal Law and over throwing the Civilian Governments. The Civilian Governments were hardly to complete three and half years. The maximum time completed by any Party was in PPP led Government from 2008 to 2013. Though, PPP failed to deliver. Given the circumstances, yet it could be said that it was first civilian Government to complete its tenure in entirety. Whereas the Military rulers such as Yahya Khan ,Ayoob khan ,General Zia ul Haq , and General Pervez Musharraf remained the Heads of State in both Marshal Law and Civilian Regime .
But it is very important to be shared here that whenever , the Political parties plan to fail or oust the government , they invite the Mighty Army to come and hold the reins country giving the instanced of Bad Governance , law and Order Situation ,Inter and External Security threat to the existence of Pakistan . But in the end when they feel that they need to be the part of the Government, they start agitating the Army that they derailed democracy by over throwing the Elected Civil Government by terming the Marshal Law Administrators as dictators.
Given the contradictory History of Military intervention in the Civilian Government, The Current Army Chief Raheel Shareef remained aloof from the Political Saga staged at D-Chowk by Pakistan Awami Tehreek Chief Allama Dr. Tahir-ur- Qadri against Model Town Incident and PTI Chief Imran Khan against rigging in the Elections. Though, Army was dragged into the Political matter several times either by giving the name of Third umpire or Making him mediator or facilitator to set the matters peacefully. General Raheel Shareef remained cool and calm and played a wise role which saved the country from another Political Crisis. This attitude may have disappointed both PTI and PAT for not imposing Marshal law or forcing Govt to resign on the charges rigged Election But the sensible role played by Raheel Shareef made it clear for the Political pundits that Army cannot be dragged to Political quagmire where the Stains on the Generals imposing marshal law have not been completely removed .
As the case of high Treason Charges against General Pervez Musharraf for November, 03 Emergency is Prejudice before the Apex Court of Pakistan. The Current General Mr. Shareef has set limitations for the Powerful Institution of Military that they should not be dragged in the Political crisis and the matters should be resolved through dialogue as dialogue is the best method to solve the bottlenecks and differences. At this critical Juncture when the nation’s Armed Forces are at war against the Militants and anti-state elements, Pakistan cannot afford to have a Martial Law.
If We come back to PPP led Government which remained in power from 2008 to 2013 ,We will find that during PPP led Government , PM Yusuf raza Gillani was disqualified on the grounds that he had not written the letter to Swiss Government to initiate legal action against the then President of Pakistan Mr Asif Ali Zardari on the orders of Apex Court , He lost the PM Slot and was replaced with Raja Pervez Asharf who was called again by the Supreme Court on the same issue . However, He wrote the letter to Swiss authorities in compliance to Apex Court order.
Despite such unfavorable conditions, the PPP-led government completed its term sustaining serious challenges of law and Order Situation, Militancy and Confrontation on the campaigning of restoration of Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry. Even the current PM and his brother CM Punjab was the part of that campaign and expressed their aggression against Government by reciting the Great Revolutionary Poet Habib Jalib . Despite all these past odds, PPP supported the Government Specially PM in such tense situations to forge any move against the democracy or chances of its derailment. The Islamabad show may not have been fruitful for the protesting Leaders but it remained very fruitful for the Public that their Rulers at last considered the voice a genuine issue and forced the Government against such problems such Electricity and Gas Shortage and Over Billing , Rising Prices and abysmal law and Order Situation.
The media remained skeptical about the Long March in August 2014 as it was divided. Some were leftists and some were rightists .But very few were covering the Show impartially. The Media had created the hype to the extent that People started believing that Government’s days are numbered and it will either dissolve the assemblies itself or Military will intervene to impose Martial law as Islamabad was presently a scene of battlefield where Pat and PTI workers were protesting violently and The Capital police was shilling over the Crowd.
But in all this, the political parties whether in coalition or opposition showed utmost maturity and did not play any proactive or anti-Government role and showed confidence in the PM and raised voice against violation of Sanctity of Parliament.
The Charter of demand presented by Both PAT and PTI was the same but PAT demanded lodging FIR against PM , CM and IG first where as PTI demanded Resignation of PM to investigate the Rigging 0r vacation for Three Months so that investigation in the Rigging by the Apex Court may be completed without any influence .
If we go through the Electoral System or Framework of Pakistan, It will be observed it helps the partiality than impartiality. First the tenure of government is too long which should be Four years as Proposed by the opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah. Second is the most problematic issue of Induction of interim federal or provincial Governments. The Party which rules for five years, The Same party selects the PM in Federal Govt and CM Provincial with the consultation Opposition leaders in national and Provincial Assemblies. One feels that how the selection of elected Representatives will be impartial since the chance of fixing or partiality cannot be ruled out as the person being nominated may support Either of the party or demand favors or use its office for personal gains.
It will be fine that unlike India, the outgoing Government must hand over the power to Election Commission of Pakistan to hold the Free, fair and transparent election within the stipulated time. This will empower CEC to hold elections without any political influence. He may be provided the required Funds for Printing of the Ballot Papers, Stipends to Polling Staff, Transportation and Shipping Costs and IT support for Consolidated Results at District and Taluka Offices of Revenue. The polling may also be held in Phases for Example in two or three Phases for both Provincial and National level.
The Polling station may be divided into clusters and a cluster in charge may be deputed to collect the results of Polling Stations on the Spot and material without compelling Presiding Officers to Submit the Results before ROs or DROs Mostly Judges. The Employees may be given Postal ballot, E-ballot facility to exercise their Vote. The EVS may be introduced so that Transparency can be insured at all levels.
Electronic Voting System will attract a large number of Youth and Women who avoid casting their vote either Political pressure or Family Restriction such as veiled Environment. With Introduction of EVS, Such families may cast their vote either by a nearby ATM, NADRA Kiosk or Touch enabled Smartphone or Tab at home. ECP only has o develop an APP or Software which gets connected through Internet or Mobile 3G or 4G.
It is irony for us that the Electoral system in Pakistan has not improved despite passage of 66 Years of Independence .Where as in the world technology has provided a great Support to democracy by ensuring transparency . We have so far some nominal changes specially introduction of thumb on the ballot papers though it was on the single part of ballot paper raising doubts about the authentication of the Vote, the magnetic Ink. But the NADRA findings are shocking the even the Ink cannot be indicator for fake votes or verified .The SMS system for Voter List .0
Excluding the above , rest all the system is such as forms and formats are the same .The Presiding officer is compelled to write the names 0f the Candidates since the forms are not area specific with the names of candidates contesting in the Elections in the respective Constituency.
For Security of the Ballot papers, it is advised that these should be kept in the Strong room of the Banks so that security of Ballot papers may insure at all levels. Besides, Bank Security personnel. , police may deploy for guarding the ballot papers. The Voter Education may be imparted to the people who are either uneducated or less educated by Organizing Orientation Workshops at the Villages with help of local NGO and Civil administration.
There should be Returning Officers from Election Commission. Election officer must act as DROs and at Tehseel Levels, ACs or DDOs of Revenue Department may be made as Teasel Returning Officer. They may be assisted by Revenue and District Election Officer Staff for compiling the consolidated vote Position.
Whereas DRO role should be to compile the results of Tehseels and announce the Winner and the Runners up . The Staff for polling may be hired locally or deputing the Officers from Banks, revenue, police besides education as well as hiring volunteers from NGOs. Election Debate either face to face in form of Conference or Open Public Debate may be made mandatory for the entire Candidate. The Condition of Graduate will sift the candidates who are uneducated or Less Educated. The Degree of the Candidates may be got verified from boards and Universities prior to launching election Campaigns’. This will enable the real candidates to go for election and fake Degree holders will not be able to make their way to either national or Provincial Assemblies.
The Assets may be verified from CBR, SBP and Excite Revenue and Custom Department so that Tax Evaders or Loan or land Revenue Tax defaulters may not be able to make their way to assemblies.
The District and Tehseel Evaluation Committees should evaluate the Progress of Candidates it they remained as MNA and MPA and forward their Reports to DRO for Scrutiny and Decision on the Basis of his suitability for the Position of MPA or MNA. The Utility Bills copy should be required from candidates to ensure that they are not the defaulters of nay state institution. The Assets of the Candidates may display on polling Station for Scrutiny and Complains may be recorded if received.
The Budget for Campaign may not exceed the 50000 to 10000 so that a Common man can contest Elections. Nomination forms may be given and received without any fee. This will enable the poor segments of the society to contest Election without the condition or obstacle of fee.
Finally , for the Selection of chief Election Commissioner it is necessary that he may be in the age range of 45 to 55 as Person aged more than 55 ,will not be able to travel and monitor the process since he would be lazy in discharge of duties . As the last CEC Fakhuruddin was aged about 86, which might have affected the pace of his work as Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan .
The Electoral Reforms Committee must have the mandate of all the Political Parties so that their Recommendation may be given due consideration and Weight age and may be implemented in letter and Spirit. So far the Committee has missed the Deadline to create Strategy or Report for Recommendation to reform The Elections. The Committee must review the Proposed Amendments Draft sent by ECP to the Parliamentary Committee besides including the input from various Opinion leaders, Writers, NGOs, Legal Experts and Ex-Legislators who have expertise in drafting laws for Electoral Process.
Moreover, it is not necessary that CEC should from Judiciary; He may be from Corporate Sector, retired Bureaucrat with Clear Service Record, Development Sector person, A Journalist or a Noted Lawyer.
But he should be free in taking decisions to implement the policies in letter and Spirit. CEC can also be from Police from the Ranks such as IG or from the Ranks of Rangers or Military such as Rtd General or Technocrat or a retired Professor from College or University, A retired Attorney. He may be a retired Chairman of Planning Commission or Bureau of Statistics, Ambassador the Choice is infinite. But the Proposed CEC must have the will to bring change in the Electoral Systems so that ECP may not be criticized Disappointing Results.
The CEC is to be appointment Before 1st December, 2014 as per statement of opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah but before the Selection of Final Candidate a consensus may be developed with all the Stakeholders so that no any party blame PPP and PML-N to have selected a candidate of their choice and did not value the opinion of other Parties. The office of CEC is very important when it comes to the question of holding free, fair and Transparent Elections to transfer the Power to Elected Party with Simple or Thumping majority.
The PML-N may also devised a policy to handle with PTI’s November 30 Protest which is said to be very resistant since Mr. Khan appears to very confident about the D-Chowk Dharna. Let’s see that whether PML-N deals with the Mob peacefully or it turns to be a Battlefield where workers likely scuffle with Police and Other Security Agencies if the Government resorted to Use of force against the Protesters in the Red Zone. The Sensible thing done by the Government so far that they will arrest any Person.
Intense polarization and Pakistan’s democratic future
Pakistan has been a polarized polity and consequently, a divided society for the past half century, and even longer if we look back deeply into its history. It started with the serious differences among the political elites of the country over the character of the state, quality of federalism, relationship between religion and governance and ideological choices. One may argue that it could be a normal process in a diverse nation’s struggle to take a definite direction and achieve stability in the formative phase. But one wonders why it would take nine years in writing the first constitution and then its annulment within three years without any general elections or transfer of power happening under it.
Without getting into the details, it was the inability of the ruling elites, their diverse regional backgrounds, personal vested interests in power grabs, and for that purpose, engineering of political manipulation to wreck governments and forms new ones.
Factions of the same elite under different party platforms kept displacing one another from power endlessly until the military took over in 1959. There is another view that political elites were innocent and they were actually played against one another as puppets by the civil and military bureaucracy.
This is too charitable a perspective to excuse the political elites and their never-ending factionalism, which continues to this day, after a long history of 74 years. If they had played by the rules, demonstrated political solidarity on principles and forged a political consensus, the democratic norms and convention would have gelled over time. The recent ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan, despite the fact that he had the largest party in the parliament with 156 members losing power to a motley group of political factions, the closest second having only 86 members and forming the new government, speaks a great deal about persistent polarization. The sad story of Pakistan is that naked factional elite interests have shaped these power plays, often by seeking friendly intervention from the powerful judicial and security institutions.
Generation after generation, coming from the same feudal-tribal social background, Pakistan’s political elites have promoted political values that run counter to nation and state-building.
The normal and expected role of the political elites in any form of political system is working toward stability, order, national unity, solidarity and continuity along with ensuring progress, social and economic development.
The Pakistani elites have done quite the opposite: polarizing and dividing people along ethnic, religious, ideological and narrow political lines. Generation after generation, coming from the same feudal-tribal social background, they have promoted political values that run counter to nation and state-building in ethically and demographically diverse society.
Ultimately, it is the rapacious character of the Pakistan ruling classes, their low commitment to rule of law and accountability and access to power as means of material benefits that have stunted the growth of democracy. In such conditions, the military has assumed the role of ‘guardian’ of the state, and has regularly managed political conflicts erupting over power struggles among the elites.
The present polarization between the PTI and the rest of the 11 so-called political parties and factions is not new. It is a continuation of the same historical pattern, only the main characters have changed. Each successive confrontation has been more severe than before. The ongoing clash looks like political warfare with no-holds-barred, barely covered with a fig leaf of constitutionality. This has been in the making for the past nine years when Imran Khan challenged the fairness of the 2013 elections. The others, in return, questioned the accuracy of the 2018 vote and vowed to oust him from power by forming a joint alliance, launching street demonstrations, and finally succeeding by winning over dissidents from his party and coalition partners and moving successfully a vote-of-confidence motion in the National Assembly.
The sudden change of heart by four coalition groups supporting Khan and the open betrayal of 20 members of his party have raised many troubling questions about the neutrality of powerful state institutions. This adds another dimension to the political conflict playing out in media, civil society and the general public.
Khan has instantly decided to engage in popular agitation against what he calls an ‘imported’ government by weaving a narrative of foreign ‘conspiracy’ and accusing some as ‘traitors.’ His decision to resign from the national assembly en-masse is stunning and may prove to be an adventurous path to Azadi‘liberation’ for the country. He will be doing politics now not in the parliament but in the streets, rousing public anger against the ‘corrupt mafia’ and demanding fresh elections.
Democracy: A colonial hangover
The system is premised upon the idea that one head would count one vote. Although the notion theoretically solves the basic inequality problem, it generates far greater inequalities’
Right after the Second Great War, though the British did leave this continent for good, they left a mess for the people of the newly founded nations to collect. Oftentimes, while trying to rationalise their colonial past, many of its fervent advocates claim that one of the greatest things that colonised countries inherited, which they would not have otherwise, was the idea of democracy: A new system of governance. A facile narrative to cover their smelly past, but also a false one.
Like many other nation-states, Pakistan also adopted democracy at the time of its inception, taking its cue from the then supposed leaders of the world. It hoped that by doing so, it too would reap the benefits that democracy promised to bring along – equality, freedoms, free-market economy and stability. However, many of these states descended into martial laws under despotic rules or turned rogue. Pakistan’s own fate was no different.
Perhaps, there are inherent flaws that everybody tends to overlook because of the way it was delivered to us and by whom – our old masters giving us the parting gift. But why is it that, to date, the same system working with far greater efficiency in the West fails miserably in developing nations?
Free market is a preeminent feature of democracy and in theory, it was supposed to be the lodestone towards freer and more egalitarian societies. But all it accomplished in reality was a further chasm in inequality and degeneration into pure consumer capitalism. This marvel made it so that power would concentrate in the hands of the affluent, making it essential for the politicians to remain in their thrall if not from within them. This notion is precisely misleading when looking at western societies. The idea of social-welfarism – which began in the early 1900s only – bridged this gap to an ‘acceptable’ degree both in terms of social and economic equality. But can this ever be achieved in countries like Pakistan or India: Reeking of moral corruption, notoriously venal, elections manifestos premised upon intolerant suppositions, bedevilled histories and above all, rugged with indigence?
The system is premised upon the idea that one head would count one vote. Although the notion theoretically solves the basic inequality problem, it generates far greater inequalities. This perspective is not supposedly a new idea and was also put forth by B.R. Ambedkar at the time when he was penning the Indian constitution. The idea of an English democracy did not particularly resonate well with another leader of the Indian freedom movement: Mahatma Gandhi.
One might inquire the reason why these leaders were so sceptical of democracy. The answer can be found precisely in today’s time. Even a fleeting look at the Modi regime could call a day of reckoning for all purveyors of democracy: de facto martial law in Kashmir, systemic persecution (as witnessed in Gujrat) and discrimination against ethnic minorities, populism at its peak, leading India into regressivism – and all this being done by the ‘democratic power’ vested in Modi by the ‘largest democracy’ in the world. Maybe such foresight left some of the leaders of the Indian Independence Movement disenchanted with democratic prospects, fearing that such a system would spawn the same problems that they sought independence to curb.
Pakistan, billed as the single Muslim nuclear power has always had to maintain an international image. The problem with the image is that it is examined on western ideals of which democracy stands to be the single biggest factor, irrespective of how nominal it is. This ensures aid, loans, and all sorts of international support for said country.
If such a scene is set, how can really a country decide what system serves its people best? It is as if countries are being goaded into something simply because they cannot yet afford a dignified existence for their people. It is not to whinge that democracy is rooted in every problem or to anoint it with a gilded halo as the saviour of nations.
The point in matter is to maybe think beyond for more egalitarian and just systems of governance. To not only aim at democracy as a metric to be reasoned among civilised nations. To make it in essence, once again, the society of Lycurgus, the society of Plato, the society of Marcus Aurelias which could push beyond what they could see. These rusty gateways of discourse, which would require some pushing, need to be opened. Maybe democracy works, maybe it does not – but the answer, in the end, lies with the people.
LGs and welfare
WITH a renewed focus on conducting local government elections, the issue of grassroots governance has bounced back into the news and policy cycles. This is reflected in the various aspects of LGs being dissected by political and civil society stakeholders, and activities — including protests by political parties — to find better and lasting ways to improve local governance.
Historically, the local bodies, first introduced during Gen Ayub’s military regime, have waxed and waned in line with the wider political schemes of state managers. It is an open secret that LGs are strategically renewed by military governments for undermining the established local political elite and manufacturing into existence a new layer of more pliable grassroots leadership. Meanwhile, elected governments and political parties too have neither looked kindly on the prospect of LGs taking root for similar fears that their locally established leadership might be challenged by new political actors.
However, irrespective of the intention behind the strategic diminishment and resurrection of LGs, the consensus across the political and academic spectrum is that local bodies are the linchpin of service delivery and the chain of political representation. Moreover, their role as connectors of higher-tier government structures and grassroots also remains unchallenged. In this respect, while many aspects of LG service delivery roles are being pored over, the role as a deliverer and administrator of social protection programmes has not been given the attention it deserves.
In Western democracies, the political governance landscape is based on local parish and councils. It is unimaginable to see them knocked out of the political representation and service delivery chain. In the UK, without local councils administrating education, social welfare systems etc, the whole edifice of a unitary state would come crumbling down. In Pakistan, however, LGs have been turned off and on like tap water, discouraging the exercise of people’s right to local representation.
With LGs, Ehsaas can have a greater reach.
The role of LGs in the administration of social welfare programmes is by now also well established in the developing world. Brazil is both associated with introducing participatory budgeting at the municipal level and the use of LGs in the administration of its famed cash transfer programme Bolsa Familia. This model has been copied in the rest of Latin and South America with municipal offices playing an ever-greater role in the roll-out and administration of similar cash transfer programmes. Brazil’s municipalities are at the front and centre in managing its social registry, carrying out a broad set of functions including identification of low-income areas, registration of beneficiaries, data collection and verification, training and outreach etc.
In Colombia, LGs are responsible for processing new applications and updating existing beneficiaries’ data on a rolling basis. Each municipality signs an agreement with the national cash transfer programme, committing to specific obligations and responsibilities. Committees are also established at the municipal level to handle complaints and allegations of ineligible beneficiaries.
In Pakistan, however, the role of LGs in the roll-out and administration of cash transfer programmes has been not systemically thought through. One of the key reasons for this is the evolving and expanding nature of the Ehsaas or Benazir Income Support Programme and the uncertainty about the continuance and longevity of LGs.
However, now that LGs seem to be back in fashion, steps should be taken to make them a permanent feature of political representation and service delivery chains. Only when the LG system is allowed to put down roots and firm up its uninterrupted presence can we begin to think about ways to shoehorn social protection programmes into LG structures for ease and confidence of its beneficiaries.
As the Ehsaas programme expands, LGs can provide it with a firm foothold, acceptability and greater reach among the public. Pakistan should definitely learn from the pragmatic fusion of local bodies and social protection programmes for better service delivery and generating wider public involvement (and hence support) at local levels. Political parties also need to change course and see LGs as the permanent enhancer of representative and service delivery aspects of democratic governance rather than as competitors of established local elites. In the longer term, there is also a long-overdue requirement for conducting research into how the absence of LGs has contributed immensely to the crisis of democratic governance and falling standards of centralised service delivery that we see today.
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