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Democracy

The Quest For The Senate Chairman

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Elections in Pakistan  have  always  witnessed  a question mark due to horse trading ,rigging  , bartering  and  bidding. The  recent  Senate Elections 2018  were  no Exception as  The Senate  Elections  were   held  in sheer  contradiction where  many Mainstream  Political parties such as PTI, MQM   cried  Foul play  and  horse trading  in the  Elections especially the  PPP’s grabbing of  Two  Senate Seats  from  KPK  on the  basis  of  6 MPAs  was  beyond  Understanding and  opened the Pandora box  as  how a  Party having  only  6 MPAs   could  manage to win  two seats  from KPK  .On the Other hand, MQM-P  due to infighting, lost the seats and managed to grab a single seat from Sindh while PML-N swept all the seats from Punjab and Islamabad.

If we go through the current Senate party-wise position, PML-N Leads the House with 34 Senate Seats as one independent candidate announced to join PML-N, followed by PPP  and  PTI  having  20 and  12 Seats each.  However, Ten Independent candidates from FATA may play the deciding role for The election of  Senate  Chairman as   PML-N needs 19 More Seats to get his  Nominee elected out of  104 seat Upper House.

The PPP and PTI contacts are also reported as both partied contacted the CM  Baluchistan for Alliance. The PTI demands Deputy chairman whereas chairman slot is offered to PPP Nominee. But the recent party meet up withdraws  the decision as  they were of  the view  that  having alliance  with either  PPP or  PML-N  would pour water on their long struggle  against  Corruption and  corrupt politicians  as  Chairman PTI  believed  that  having alliance  with PPP may benefit  PML-N and other opposition parties  including  JUI-F who are the strong  critics of  both parties  .

They may launch a public campaign against the party’s vision that those who used to call  Zardari  (Bemari)  The Disease for Sindh now sitting in their ranks and made an alliance with the corrupt party in quest of Power.Suppose  ,  If they make an alliance, they will have  32 seats, they will still require 21 seats to get the Slot of  Senate Chairman. Zardari is eying 15 Independent candidates of  FATA and Baluchistan, National Party of Baluchistan’s 5 seats, MQM’s  5 Seats, PML-F 1 seat, JI 2 Seats etc.  If zardari succeeds in getting the small parties on board then it will give tough time to PML-N. JUI-F has announced to back PMl-N Nominee whereas JI may support  PTI  as both parties are running a coalition Govt in KP.

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PPP has enjoyed the coalition with  MQM-P past though this political bonhomie did not last longer owing to the greed of power and resources on the part of  MQM and contradictory Separate Province Demands and tirade against Pakistan by self-exiled MQM –london chief  Altaf Hussain.

As regards The  Senate Elections, they are also reported to be rigged since Billions of Rupees were used to influence and change the loyalties of  MNAs and MPAs. Though the ECP  has taken the   Notice of such gross irregularities,  yet No action may likely be taken owing expiry of the  Government Term in May 2018.

PML-N may win Chairman Senate  Seat Either from its allies or  PML-N owing to the consensus on Nominee, while  PPP claims to have 60 Seats including FATA senators. But  PML-N has not reached the decision of Final Candidate.  In this situation, all the parties appear to be divided struggling to find the suitable candidate after refusal and Rejection over the name of   Existing  Senate Chairman, Senator Raza Rabbani by Zardari  Though the recommendation card was played by  PML-N former chief  Mian Nawaz Shareef. Shareefs are in disarray after disqualification as  PM and  Party chief altogether.

They have already started anti-Judiciary, NAB and Armed forces agitation campaign are not in the good books of  Establishment as well. However, as they enjoy the majority in the upper House, they face less resistance or effort to get their nominee elected.

So far, the PML-N leadership has not been able to finalize their Nominee for  Senate Chairman and Deputy Chairman Slots as they are still doing consultation with key allies such as National Party of  Baluchistan NP, JUI-F and Others.

PTI and PPP, on the other hand, are also seen busy to form an alliance to get the Slots. PPP’s Co-chairman Former President, Asif Ali Zardari is alleged to have bought the MPAs and MNAs and this purchase process is said to be continued as  Senators are being offered millions as per News reports to Support their nominee for  Chairman slot.

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PPP appears to be the only party that is in close contact with the independent candidates and had negotiations with various  Main Stream and Small parties Sindh, KP, Baluchistan to reach on an agreement for winning support from the allies for their  PPP nominee likely Salim Mandiwala etc.

On the other hand, PTI is vying for  Deputy chairman slot as they enjoy the third position in Upper House. Both PTI- PPP  may reach on consensus candidate  Sadiq Sanjrani as both parties have consensus over  Sadiq Sanjrani   He is emerging as the favourite candidate for the opposition in Upper House.Therefore, PTI finally nods to support PPP candidate after having internal party discussions and  Demand the  Deputy  Chairman Slot.

The Ball is in the PML-N’s court as they have the majority and only require  18 seats to win the chairman Slot.With JUI –F support and eying independent senators they may still be able to win The Chairman Senate seat but this prediction may be bit early as anything happens at any time. Maybe, The  PPP succeeds in making allies and winning support as Zardari is very clever in making surprises or stunning the opposition.

Zardari is also considered the king of changing the game as he did in Baluchistan by toppling the  Zahri  Govt and bringing in New set up in Baluchistan.PTI will support PPP Nominee as both parties are against the  PML-N Government.  The Political Pundits say that if Zardari’s Candidate wins that will be the great set back or Blow for PML-N.

The Election  for the appointment  of  Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate is scheduled  Today ,so let’s see  who  wins  the  Elections of  Upper House Head and Deputy Head  -be it  PML-N  or  PPP-PTI  allies  . But  Zardari has shown disappointment over  the proposed name of  Sadiq Sanjrani  for  Chairman Slot during the  Meeting  of  CM Baluchistan  Abdul Qayoom Bizenjo and  PTI Chief  Imran Khan .

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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. 

ALSO READ :  LGs and welfare

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: 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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