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Rigging tantrums


December 10, 2015

‘Rigging’. It all started from that one word that haunts us today (some more than others). While there is no doubt that a certain degree of rigging continues to plague the electoral system in Pakistan, there is also no doubt that the only manner in which this disease can be treated is by allowing the system to function.

We, in Pakistan, are a restless people. Hardly any of us are exempt from once having welcomed one dictator or another, or constantly asking the army to takeover and ‘save’ us from these ‘corrupt’ politicians. Our daddy issues persistently manifest themselves in our search for a saviour. Institutions are not our concern: they will automatically stabilise and strengthen when our hero emerges leading us to ‘naya’ Pakistan – a ‘roshan’ Pakistan.

The debate has now shifted. It is no longer about a mandate being stolen. It is true that we should be responsible in electing our leaders but that decision – of what and who to vote for – is not and cannot be subject to challenge at the whims of those who believe they should have won an election.

When parents are raising a child, there are times they must let the child scream and cry to teach him/her that not everything in life can be avoided or overcome by throwing a tantrum. Political parties are large, extended families – those in guiding positions must advise their family members to age with grace, take defeat in their stride, and reform.

Power is an intoxicating drug. Which political party in Pakistan does not want to be in power? In the desperation to make it or break it, many have lost sight of the crucial role an opposition plays. It is no small task and it comes with great responsibility. If government is important, opposition is equally important as it is the direct counter-check on power. If government is power, opposition is accountability. One without the other is incomplete.

Having said that, these facts in no way take away from the massive responsibility of the government to function effectively and deliver, not just to its voters but to the state that they represent. The government of the day is a political government, However, they act not as political agents but agents of the State of Pakistan. Strengthening their political parties may be an objective they wish to work towards but it is their obligation to strengthen state institutions.

No man lives forever and no politician can escape the reality of mortality. If a leader chooses to work for ‘political gain’ rather than contributing to ‘good governance’ and ‘institutional development’, history will depict exactly that. The system, as it continues to function, will flush out the contaminated. This process cannot be fast-forwarded; even the world’s largest, flourishing democracies took decades to reach where they are today.

Those who cry after every election will not be respected by the people, nor will those who continuously abuse the mandate they have been given. However, it is not something that can be taken away from us – it is our right to choose who represents us and it is inevitable that we will learn and grow with the system.

While the opposition of the day must focus on pushing electoral reforms and constantly keeping an eye on what the government is doing, the government cannot indefinitely avoid having to deal with the real problems that confront this state.

Political motives cannot interfere with the responsibility of the government to reform the criminal justice system, and initiate and follow-through on an overhaul of the bureaucracy and law-enforcement agencies.

The writer is a lawyer.

Email: [email protected]



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