Dangerous moves

October 21, 2019

It is a painful reality that even after more than seven decades since its independence, Pakistan is still groping in the dark to find the direction envisioned by its founding fathers and remains a...

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It is a painful reality that even after more than seven decades since its independence, Pakistan is still groping in the dark to find the direction envisioned by its founding fathers and remains a distant competitor with countries that emerged on the global map just about the same time.

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The greater blame for this state of affairs can be justifiably apportioned to power politics recklessly indulged in by the political elite and the political parties at the cost of consolidation of the gains of independence. It has almost become visceral for political parties losing elections to question the validity of the polls and indulge in all sorts of tactics to pull the government down before it completes its tenure. This culture has done irretrievable damage and given birth to perennial political instability which in turn has also undermined the economic progress of the country.

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The Azadi march and dharna announced by Maulana Fazlur Rahman, supported by the PPP and PML-N and likely to be joined by other political and non-political entities is quintessential of the culture of power politics with its basic purpose of achieving access to the corridors of power by hook or crook. While it is hard to take issue with the right of the political parties in the opposition to criticize and oppose the policies of the sitting government, it is at the same time not legitimate for them to indulge in moves to destabilize the entire system for the sake of their narrow political ends. In view of the prevailing security challenges confronting the country in the backdrop of the Indian action to change the special status of Kashmir, the recourse to political agitation without a legitimate cause becomes even more unpalatable.

The political parties would better serve the cause of democracy by allowing the PTI government to complete its tenure while they keep trying to change public perceptions about its performance through the avenues that are available to them in the form of media and other forums. Mere change of government is not the solution as it would further aggravate the permeating situation and create an ambience of political uncertainty in the country – which it can ill-afford. The government has taken the right step to engage the Maulana and other parties to dissuade them from the proposed agitation and also to accommodate their legitimate grievances. All stakeholders need to show maturity keeping in mind the national interests.

The root-cause of where Pakistan stands now is the single constituency system of electing representative governments. It actually encourages power politics, promotes a culture of graft and entitlement and perpetuates the hold of feudal lords on the political power. The best way to break the hold of the feudal lords on the political power in this country is to adopt the system of proportional representation for electing our parliamentarians.

Under this system, people vote for parties rather than individual candidates in a single constituency and the parties get representation in parliament on the basis of the percentage of votes that they poll. The advantage of this system is that it reflects the real support for the political parties among the masses and also ensures the presence of smaller and regional parties in the parliament making the legislature a truly representative body.

Party leaders are spared of blackmail by electables and they can nominate really competent and educated people to represent the party in parliament. The system also eliminates the possibility of horse trading and floor-crossing for personal gains. To make this system really workable, voting will also have to be made compulsory so that every registered voter can exercise his/her right of franchise.

The possibilities of unnecessary wrangling between the political parties on matters like the date of elections and the formation of a caretaker setup must also be removed permanently. Like in the US, the parties must agree on one date on which the election will be held after every five years and the matter should no more be the prerogative of the sitting government to decide. Similarly, the formation of the caretaker setup should also be decided once and for all so that the parties can focus more on their programmes rather than wasting their energies on non-substantive issues.

The judiciary is the most respectable and trusted institution of the country and it would be advisable for the parties to agree on the point that the latest retired and living judge of the Supreme Courtwould head the caretaker setup and he would be free to choose his team to hold free and fair elections and also run the affairs of the government till the new elected government assumes charge. The same strategy can also be adopted for appointment of members of the Election Commission.

Corruption is another big issue of the country. All the parties must sit together to evolve a foolproof system of across-the-board accountability and the institution established for the purpose must have a constitutional status beyond the power of the sitting government to influence it for political vendetta.

The political parties have already shown commitment to the national causes by unanimously carrying out amendments in the constitution and also giving their blessings to the adoption of the 7th NFC Award. They must show the same zeal and dedication in collaboration with the PTI government in bringing about systemic changes on the foregoing lines to put the country on the envisioned course. It is time to make a break from our unenviable past.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: ashpak10gmail.com

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