It has been almost one and half year of PML (N) led Federal Government to complete but the situation is going from bad to verse. On the Economic front , it has achieved a tremendous success but on the Security front, it has been facing the constant internal and External threats . The Bomb blasts , extortion and Communal riots are on the rise and the whole country is going through the most dangerous and critical security situation which shows no sign of improvement .
Despite failure of dialogue with Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after their conditional Ceasefire , So far no positive results have been experienced or observed as reported by the main stream Security analysts . Consequent upon the Presidential Elections in Afghanistan , the deadline of NATO forces withdrawal from Afghanistan is fast approaching and with replacement of Karzai Government , Pakistan will be facing the Security threats from the TTP factions existing in Tribal Areas , Punjab and long bordering Afghanistan . With aggressive attitude of Armed forces after the induction of General Pervez Musharaf in the high treason case of suspending the Constitution and imposing emergency in the country .
The Army as an institution is in aggressive mood as Renowned Analyst and Journalist Najam Sethi has predicted that Army will resist any capital punishment given to Former Chief of Armed Forces General Pervez Musharaf. As the later himself claimed and still claims that the Army is with him. The Statement of general Pervez Musharaf that he enjoys the support from the Armed Forces cannot be ruled out as Political parties have started consultations over giving the safe exit to former Armed Chief to avoid institutional confrontation .
The All of Sudden decision of Armed forces to initiate major Offensive against various factions of Taliban militants under the operation Zarab-e-Azab in North Waziristan and other Tribal Agencies clearly echoes the “all powerful institutional status” of the Armed Forces . The judiciary and The parliament are being overshadowed by the Mighty Institution with the passage of Protection of Pakistan Act 2014 which could be used against the anti state Actors and security personnel could detain any suspect or political Activist for the period of 90 days without reporting the whereabouts of the Detainee.
On other hand , After serious incident of Model Town Lahore which claimed 12 innocent lives and 90 persons got injured, has started a tug of war between the Strong man Shahbaz Shareef and Revolutionary Dr Tahir –ur-Qadri as the later has been criticizing the Punjab Government for bad governance and demanding the case may be registered against Punjab CM and Security Personnel considering them responsible for the Model town Shootout . To remove the stain from Shahbaz Sharif , Sharif Brothers ousted the Provincial Law minister Rana Sanaullah making him Sacrificial Goat . The Gullu Butt Mystery is yet another issue to be reckoned with. The PML (N) seems to be between devil and deep sea to deal with the issues popping up all of sudden.
The PTI’s head Imran Khan’s Saga is yet another pressure tool for the government to deal with since Mr. Khan has been demanding recount of four Constituencies of Lahore but the Government has not heeded to them as yet . The Demand has been supported by the PPP recently which might have confused the already under pressure Sharifs to make some tough decisions since PTI’s Announcement for Freedom March on 14th August might have compelled the PML (N) government to make some measures to cope with the Freedom March plan .
Asif Ali Zardari’s recent statement over PTI’s Demand may have shaken the PML (N) leadership since Zardari’s PPP enjoys the strong Position in the Assembly as well as in Senate which may create hurdles in the way of PML(N) and may create such a scenario where Midterm Polls looming Possibility , may become a reality as with MQM a coalition partner in Sindh with PPP , both may force the Sharifs to accept the demands and make some bitter Decisions which may change the entire situation .
Pakistan has become the land of controversies such as Dr Arsalan Iftikhar’s recent Blame game against PTI chief and challenging the Candidature of Imran Khan and PTI challenging the Candidature of Sharif brothers has other motives to disclose since the parties have been watching the situation very attentively and joint opposition Alliance Possibility could not be ruled out as every Political party has got some Common interest and every party wants to win the hearts of the people with their campaigns against the government .
Some mainstream Parties have initiated campaigns against Rigging , corruption and energy crisis , some have raised issues against operation , some has criticized the privatization road map for the State Institutions ,some have criticized the Economic and Human Rights Policies . Some have also criticized the nepotism and favoritism in the appointment of heads of various State Institutions. So much so, that almost every Political Party has a bone to pick with the Government. In this connection, Government has been compelled by the prevalent situation has decided to let the Freedom Marchers to March on Independence since the PML(N) think tanks have advised the Government that if government resisted to the Freedom Marchers led by Imran Khan , may have serious repercussion which may change the entire scenario and create such situation which may further aggravate the governance and PML(N) led Federal government days may be counted .
The recent Popularity Survey conducted by Gallop and other Organization show that PTI enjoys the First Position , PPP second and the PML(N) has slipped to number three as PML(N)’s popularity graph has been constantly maintaining downward trend which is not suitable for already criticized party by the leaders of mainstream party . The People of Pakistan has been fed up with “you –n-me” turns and want this to be changed with performance indicators and visionary leadership. The people have become fatigued to elect same legislators from the same constituency for consecutive three decades and want the old faces to be replaced with new ones .
As the oldies have become controversial due to corruption , nepotism , favoritism , influence on security agencies and other state machineries and inefficiency and lack of clear policy and vision to materialize the promise they had made with the people during their Election campaigns or those written in their Election Manifestos .Election manifestos are written to attract the voters to cast their votes in the favor of Parties candidate as nobody takes any responsibility to review the previous manifestos and update the manifestos with clear vision .
For instance , PML(N) had promised to end load shedding in six months but failed miserably and heavily criticized for setting illogical targets without any consultation with Power Sector Specialist or doing any research on any issue since Except the PTI ,No any party has any strategic Policy unit to address the key issues and do some research present and future issues related Human Rights , Development , Planning , Demography , Social Development , Economic Development , Natural Resource Management , Security , foreign Policy , Democracy and Governance and come up with lasting solutions to those issues of higher importance and drafting their manifestos on the basis of Research and Situation analysis rather than just exaggerated calculations and making illogical conclusion which be the basis for criticism at a time when these same issues may become the cause of the Government failure .
So why not take some initiative in advance to address the issues and find out lasting solutions after Research, analysis and consultations. This will change the whole picture of the governance and bring in innovations in Democratic Process rather than just traditional Politics .
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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