Pakistan has been going through very tough times especially the disintegrated Political parties raising questions regarding the Upcoming General Elections since the main Political parties specially PML-N Leadership has been in disarray ever since the Elected Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Shareef was disqualified on the charges of corruption and Mayfair flats ownership issue as well as Panama Papers Issue. The national accountability Bureau has woke up after a long period of dormancy and started actions against high profile Cases specially Shareef Family and related leaders.
All the parties enjoy watching Shareef Family being dragged to the accountability courts for prosecution. The Supreme court orders for Probe against Mian Nawaz Sharif ,His Two sons Hassan and Husain Nawaz , His Daughter Mariam Nawaz , His Close Relative Ishaq Dar and His Son in law Captain Safdar for their alleged involvement in illegal Money transfer , tax Evasion and Illegal Property purchased through transferring the Black money by establishing Offshore companies in UK .
The charges against Shareef Family Members are very serious as Nawaz’s sons and Ishaq Dar are absconding from the NAB proceedings whereas Mian Nawaz Shareef along with her Daughter and son in law Captain Safdar are facing Corruption charges in the NAB courts and as per the orders of the Supreme court of Pakistan, NAB has been given the 6 Months time to decide the cases against the Shareef Family and take the Panama case to its logical End by punishing the Perpetrators of The Crime.
Meanwhile, PTI has also lost their main wicket when MNA Mr Jahangir Tareen was disqualified over Tax evasion and submission of Fake Asset Details and Paying less Tax on his Agriculture Production and having Offshore company that was not declared as his assets at the time filing his nomination .
Luckily, The Captain of PTI was absolved from the charges of having received foreign Funds in the name of charity or welfare activities with special reference to Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital.
Given the disqualification of Jahangir Tareen, PTI has suffered great loss as its main financer who funded the most of the party activities was disqualified by the Apex Court through a Petition filed by PMl-N Leader Hanif Abbasi.
PTI is being considered the favourite for upcoming General Elections of 2018 as it has emerged as the 3rd largest Political party after PML-N and PPP. But with the disqualification of Its General Secretary MNA Jahangir Tareen, It might have suffered a setback but luckily the Chairman PTI was absolved of the charges.
JUI and Jamaat Islami are also main religious Political Parties having roots in Politics across Pakistan especially, JUI in KPK and Baluchistan whereas Jamaat Islami in Punjab and KPK as Jamaat Islami, currently ,is in alliance with PTI in Provincial Govt of KPK.
The Religious parties are trying to revive the –the MMA (Muttahida Majlis Amal ) but in current political arena, it would be very difficult to form a religious Alliance as Most of the religious Parties have loyalties with mainstream Political parties such as Jamaat Islami with PTI and JUI Fazal with PML –N and In past –With PPP led Government . If the Religious parties succeed in the revival of MMA then this will be great setback for all the partied i.e PTI, PPP and PML-N.
While other Political parties such as MQM, PSP, PML – Q, PML-F and ANP are not strong enough to make the Provincial or Central Government but they will rather prefer to be part of a coalition with the party having a clear majority to form the Government at the Centre and The Provincial Level. At the Moment , as per the Survey conducted by Gallop and Pildat , the Parties which are considered favorite for Upcoming General Elections 2018 are PTI in KPK , Punjab , Sindh , Jamaat Islami in KPK , Punjab and Baluchistan , MQM,PSP ,PML-F in Sindh specially the urban areas of Karachi , Hyderabad , Mirpurkhas , Sukkur as these parties are also the part of GDA –Grand Democratic Alliance . It is also said that in the upcoming General Elections 2018, Independent Candidates will also play their role as their number will be very high in future.
The Elections Reforms Bill was the only hurdle in holding the Elections on time that was luckily passed from NA and Senate. The Election Commission will soon start the exercise of Delimitation of the Constituencies on the basis of Census 2017 Statistics. The Election Reforms Bill 2017 was much-echoed Issue in the National Assembly and Senate as PPP was aggressive against the Census Results as they were raising objections against the Census Results and wanted the Elections on old Constituencies and opposed the delimitation exercise . But the consensus rejected the rumours of Delay in Polls or Early Polls. The Political Pundits and Experts are of the View, given the Passage of Election Reforms Bill from both Houses, the Signs of holding elections are becoming clear.
But the Preparation of the parties is still a far cry as No party is ready or organized to contest General Elections 2018 due to Political Crisis and Prevalent Accountability Proceedings against the Leaders of Various Parties specially PML-N, PPP and PTI. However, The Political parties i.e PTI, Jamaat Islami, PSP or GDA in Sindh may sweep Seats from Rural and Urban areas of Sindh and form Provincial Government as well. But so far it seems to be very difficult parties to defeat PPP in Sindh as it enjoys Monopoly in Sindh as it has not faced any strong Opposition in the last several Years. GDA may work if PTI becomes the part of it.
Despite all this, The uncertainty still prevails regarding General polls and There are some reports of Technocrat Government to be installed but Political parties especially PTI, Jamaat Islami or Even PPP will strongly resist if such move or plan was unearthed or Establishment played any role in the forming Government in General Elections.
As precedence was available with MQM-PSP romance to contest Election on the same platform with joint Election Symbol but the romance didn’t last long with PSP leader Mustafa Kamal spilt beans regarding Establishment role for Merger or coalition to keep PPP, PML-N out of Mainstream Politics. It is also expected that there may be coalition Government as No party will have any clear majority to form their Government in the centre or at Province, given their weak political Organization and Activities especially, several forward Blocks are likely to be formed in PML-N and PPP. As per vote bank, PTI has climbed the 2nd Position as per recent by-election results.
Whatever, result or outcome of Panama papers or NAB References against Shareef Family should be , But it is clear that PML–N may not form a government in Upcoming Elections Except they may clinch some seats in Punjab, given the Development Projects Initiated by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Unfortunately, the sword of Disqualification looms upon him due to Model Town Massacre Case and the decision may go against him as Awami Tehreek Leader, Tahir ul-Qadri has announced to hold Protests and Sit-ins Dharnas until the resignation of Punjab CM and Law Minister Rana Sanuallah. Let’s wait and see what happens next but people opine with the uncertainty that the Election on time, will be distant dream owing to prevailing Political Scenario and preparation.
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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