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Democracy

The Flawed Electoral System And Good Governance

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Pakistan has  been  the  most unfortunate country, governed  by  non professional Feudals ,Capitalists and  less  educated  legislators  who mostly win the  Elections by  rigging  , feudal  influence ,power and strength ,  leaving little  space  for  the  poor  segments of  the  society  to exercise  their  right to  vote for  the  candidates  of  their   choice  . The  Practice  of  Exercising the  vote for the deserving  candidates  has  been  a tough task  for the  people  residing in rural  areas  who are  heavily influenced  by the  Feudal lords  .

These  feudal lords  have  complete control  over these  poor  souls and  force  them , mostly the  small farmers and peasants , to  vote  for the  candidates  he  had  promised  and incase  of  defiance  , get  ready for the serious  consequences. The Polling Stations  are controlled  by the  hired  goons of  these  Feudal contesting candidates  who not only  pressurize  the  polling staff  for the  support of their  candidate  but  even  cast fake  votes  on the  power  of  Guns  . The  poor  polling staff  receiving  life  threats  in the  station  compellingly  nods  to the  wishes  of  these  spoons  who are tasked  to get  support from polling  staff for  maximizing the  chances  of  Success  of their  contesting candidates  .

In  this  condition  ,  the  staff  administering the Polling  station  and  one or  two  Police  security personnel  could  not resist  to the  powerful candidates  who  enjoy the  greater support in the  higher ranks of  bureaucracy  . Such  systems  have produced  the  worthless  politicians  who  grease  their palms  when  they  are  in power  and  spend  the  public  funds  on their  personal  luxuries  forgetting those  who made  their  access  to Assemblies  possible by voting  in their  favor  .

In Pakistan  , the  Elections  are  either  held  before   the  completion of term  or  sometimes  marred  by the  Coup D’états as the  history  reflects  the  story  . Pakistan has been ruled more by the Marshal Law Administers than by the Elected Democratic forces. The Election in Pakistan is contested by various parties in the various provinces. Some  parties  such as  PML (N)  , Pakistan People’s  Party Parliamentarians  have  majority  at federal level  where as  the  some  parties  have  majority at  Provincial  level  . For instance, the  Parties  such as  ANP and  JUI-F  had  massive  majority in the  Khyber Pakhtunkhwa  in previous  term of  Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian led  Government  but  after  May 11 2013  Elections  PTI  gained  thumping  popularity  by  winning  the  maximum  number of  seats  in the  General  Elections  and  has  become  the third  largest  party in terms of seats  in Pakistan after  PML(N) and PPPP.

The PTI has also impressive representation in National Assembly, Punjab Assembly and Sindh Assembly as well. Led  by Former  Cricketer  Imran Khan  , PTI  has evolved  into  a  well organized  Party  specially for youth  of  Pakistan  .  Until 2013, there were only two party rule  with majority. But  in may  11 Elections  last  year  , PTI  emerged as  victorious party  with simple  majority in KPK  to form the  Government  with Moderate religious Party  Jamaat Islami in the  Terrorist  hit and  Drone  engulfed  Province  . PPP has  always  won the most seats  in Sindh  followed  by  Urban influenced  MQM  and  PML-Functional  . In  Punjab , its  PML –N and  PML-Q  to appear  victorious but in  last elections  PML-N  was given the clean chit in Punjab to grab the maximum seats  . Though  the  PTI  protested  against the  rigging in   the  constituencies of  Lahore  and  carried  demonstrations  but  to no avail .

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The  Baluchistan  always  gives  mix  response  where  no party gets  simple  majority  in the province  and forms  Government  with other coalition partners but the  PML-N Chief   Mian Nawaz  Shareef  gave the  chance to  nationalists of  BNP to form  the  government with  PML-N  and  other  parties  There are  several parties  registered with   Election Commission of Pakistan  but they are not deep rooted  as compared  to  ,main stream  parties  such as   PML –N , PPPP, MQM  , PTI , MNP , PML-F  , PkMAP  and  PML-Q  . Though  the  nationalists  in Baluchistan contest  the general Elections  but in Sindh It was very first time  that the national parties     such as SUP , STP and  QAT  contested Elections last year but could not win  any seat  even though  they had an alliance.

The  Last  year  Election were  a bit change  as  compared  to previous elections  as  voters  were  required  to place  their  thumb impressions and CNIC number  on the  ballot papers on the reserved  part of the Ballot paper which was  held for record purposes but  the other portion of  the  ballot  paper which was    given to the  voters , did not carry both the  thumb impression and CNIC number thus  making the whole  process questionable and deliberately the  possibility  of  rigging appeared  . The  PTI  even went on to say that the Whole Elections were  rigged  and demanded  re-elections  but  the  demand  was  put down  when they formed  their  Government  in KPK .

Moreover  , the fake Degree  holding  Legislators  were  first  disqualified  and  then permitted to  contest  elections  making  adverse  effect upon the  future  elections  taking the  fake  degree  issue  into consideration . If  you are  allowing those  who  made  false  statement of their  qualifications and  submitted  bogus  degrees  to Election Commission  ,then  how  could  you expect a  Good  governance  from the  candidates  . Everybody  will  raise  fingers  upon them as they  cannot be  sincere  to the  nation whose  precious  votes  were  hijacked  by the  candidate  holding fake degree  .

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The  Fake  Degree  holders  should  have been  given the  exemplary  punishment and  a  life time ban  on their  candidature  for  Provincial  , National and  Senate seats .Our neighboring country  India  has  introduced  e-voting  system  for making the  Election  free  , fair and  transparent  then why can’t we adopt and  introduce  such system  to discourage the  possibilities of  the  rigging and  over influence  . The world has been benefiting from the  technology  but  we are  not  availing the  services of  reputed  Technology giants  to mock test  the e-voting system . Though  mock testing  was  done  in KPK for  local Government Elections  which produced  positive results  .

As Election Commission of Pakistan is  going to hold  Local Bodies Election this  year   in Sindh  , Punjab and  KPK , why not  give  a  try to the  e-voting  to  ensure  maximum  transparency and further  the reputation of  apex  election Body which is  tasked  to hold  Local as  well  as  General    Elections . The  Election  Commission should  mock test  e-voting system  in all the  provinces  and  seek feedback from the  voters  about the  system and  arrange  televised  sessions  for  voter education and introduction of  the  e-voting system which will probably  minimize  the  chances of  bogus voting  and  rigging in the Elections . At the  same  time  the  ballot papers  should carry CNIC , Thumb  impression box  on both  parts  such as  the portion which is reserved for  record and  the portion for casting vote after  stamping  the election sign of the  candidate of  voters’ choice  .

Unless  the whole  Election system  is  completely revamped and improved  , the inefficient  candidates  will keep  on making their way to the assembly  whose  credibility  would  always be  questioned since  systematic  flaws  directly affect the  Governance  system due  non professional and less  educated  candidates  who will  miserably fail  to undertake  the tasks of  Policy making , Legislation and  ensuring good governance . These  people  will be at  mercy of  the  Secretarial  Staff  to guide them  in their  operational and  legislative duties .The Election  commission  may  also contact  the  polling staff  from  NGO’s and  Public  as  in service  Staff is influenced  by the  candidates  easily  . This will greatly help minimize  the  rigging chances  and  encourage the  Good Governance System after success  of  deserving  candidates and  at the same  time  will make whole electoral  system  transparent and fair .

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Democracy

Intense polarization and Pakistan’s democratic future

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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. 

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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. 

Via ArabNews

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Democracy

Democracy: A colonial hangover

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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?

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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.

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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.

Via MM

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Democracy

LGs and welfare

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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.

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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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