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The people have spoken


July 29, 2018

The state belongs to the people. As a result, the people are regarded as the political sovereigns on whose behalf governments function to achieve the objectives of the social contracts that justify the existence of the state.

The constitutions of all the states, including Pakistan, acknowledge this reality. Democracy is a political mechanism through which the will of the people is expressed and political parties are mandated to rule the country. Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the US, aptly defined democracy as a “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

The right to rule a country derives its legitimacy from the mandate given by the people to a political party through a political process. That is how the people give their authorisation to a particular political entity to govern the country on their behalf. In a similar vein, the people of Pakistan have spoken through the recently concluded general elections and given their verdict in favour of the PTI.

It is dream come true for Imran Khan. Although there are some apprehensions about his brand of politics, we shouldn’t belittle the significance of the mandate given to him by the people. We must respect it without any rancour and malice because the people are always right.

I have been a critic of Imran Khan’s style of politics, his propensity to hurl unsubstantiated allegations at his political opponents, and his tendency to use foul language against his adversaries. However, I would like to congratulate him and his party for gaining the trust of the people.

Now that he has been entrusted with the responsibility to rule the country, he will have to shun his past proclivities and behave in a much more responsible manner because he is now the face of Pakistan.

Imran must remember that he carries a heavy burden to fulfil the commitments made to the people and implement his promised reforms in the system of governance. He will be under the strict scrutiny of his opponents as well as the people. The premiership of a country like Pakistan, which faces formidable challenges and is beset with the worst kind of political polarisation, is not a bed of roses. The euphoria, enthusiasm and hopes that surround his ascent to power will have to be nurtured and maintained by delivering on the promises made in the run-up to the elections.

His victory speech mentioned the elimination of poverty and corruption as his top priorities. Most governments in Pakistan have invariably sustained an archaic system of governance that is not only anti-people but is also infested with an inbuilt culture of graft and entitlement. This created islands of affluence in the oceans of poverty that Imran has promised to abolish. We should take his words at face value and hope that he is able to deliver on his promises.

The vision put forward by Imran will require us to make drastic changes in the system of governance and the way we elect our representatives. To achieve this, he will need the cooperation of his political opponents. His success will mainly depend on his ability to bridge political cleavages and draw up a new social contract, which is approved by all stakeholders, that reestablishes the ascendency of elected representatives and the representative institutions of the state.

The political parties that have failed to win the mandate of the people and are destined to play the role of the opposition in legislative bodies will also need to demonstrate political maturity and carry out systemic reforms to take the country forward and ward off the dangers lurking on the horizon.

While seeking redress for their grievances regarding the electoral exercise and its credibility – which is their legitimate right – these parties must remain within the confines of the law and constitution. Our ability to address internal and external challenges is inextricably linked to our internal unity and the strength of our governing system, which ought to be based on justice and fair play.

Political analysts and intellectuals believe that it is absolutely imperative for a multicultural country like Pakistan to change the way people elect their representatives. The present system of electing representatives, which is based on a single constituency basis, has perpetuated the corrupt colonial system of governance that has affected society due to its trickledown effect. The so called ‘electables’ produced by the system have not only insulted the mandate of the people by repeatedly changing their loyalties, but have also been used by anti-democratic lobbies to indulge in political engineering, which has become the bane of our socio-economic development.

The country needs to move towards a proportional representative system. Under this system, people vote for parties and they are represented in the legislatures according to the percentage of the popular votes polled in their favour. This helps the parties to bring forth their best and competent people to the legislatures who can positively contribute towards nurturing and addressing causes and issues.

The system makes parliament a truly representative body and helps to bring small regional parties into the mainstream of the national politics. Adopting this system will eliminate feuds regarding rigging, which are the hallmark of our political culture. It will also scuttle the ability of the elements who don’t favour democracy to sabotage the will of the people or orchestrate political engineering. A proportional representative system will address the prevalent culture of corruption in our body politic, which has affected almost all segments of society.

There is also a need to draw up a national economic agenda through a political consensus that ought to be faithfully followed by all the parties who are mandated to rule the country. This will be a challenging task for Imran. Therefore, he should let bygones be bygones and strive for political reconciliation to mitigate the consequences of past political polarisation and the culture of political vendetta.

Ushering in a new political culture that is in harmony with national aspirations and the Quaid’s vision will surely be an arduous task. It will test Imran’s political acumen and abilities to lead a fragmented nation.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]

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