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 .
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 .
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 .
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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