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Missing link in democratic discourse in Pakistan 

31 Oktober 2011 03:14:54

The Missing Link

Missing link in democratic discourse in Pakistan

Fayyaz Baqir

Pakistani politics is back to populist show off by different political parties to lure back disappointed, cynical and apathetic voters to their folds. The recipe for mustering street power consists of two components; wild accusations and tall promises. It is more like a replay of Punjabi films of yester years than a well thought out effort to reinvent the collapsing political dispensation. There is no diagnosis of where things have gone wrong and no prognosis of how they can be put back on track. There is no mention of how people can be made a part of solution rather than part of the problem. This political confrontation is a show of strength of party loyalists at best. This loyalist politics is the very disease which has brought Pakistan to the end of precipice. It does not matter whether one is loyal to Zardari, Sharfis, Altaf, Imran, Asfand Wali or Fazlur Rehman. Pakistan’s political landscape suffers from ineffective and non- existent institutions.  It is so ironic that no one talks of the institutions in the entire debate on current political crisis. No political leader has any inkling of what has happened to our institutions and how our dynastic politics has contributed to collapse of institutions.

We don’t have consensus on keeping and strengthening intuitions of the people and we have not enabled our institutions to work for the people. We have faith in Army and Judiciary only to the extent that they serve as arbitrators between the quarreling sections of our elite. We have not even groomed and developed our political parties to serve as institutions representing, articulating and advancing the interest of weak and downtrodden sections of our society. It is important here to distinguish between the populist and democratic ethos. We have a populist political culture unable to effectively respond to democratic ideals. The only response we receive from our political parties is promise of shortcuts. Vote for xyz and live happily ever after. Each party leader has one outstanding qualification. He is great. So the banners for these leaders read; xyz we pay tribute to your greatness. What is their greatness- they patronize their cronies.

Who is supposed to deliver to the people? What is happening to the institutions? Let us take a look. Our political parties depend on the Army not political debate for resolving their difference. Even when elected parliament is in place we extensively make use of Presidential Ordinances not the floor of house for legislation. We depend on judiciary not on Town Hall meetings to address the grievances of our citizens. Our political leaders oppose tooth and nail the Local Government but welcome bureaucratic judgments to deal with popular causes. We prefer corrupt lower judiciary over Qazi Courts to deal with lack of quick and inexpensive justice in the name of rejecting fundamentalism. We have political parties championing democracy without internal elections. These democratic parties sell party tickets to the rich instead of accommodating the poor. We participate in commercialized  elections that keep out capable and low income political workers from corridors of power. We have a Planning Commission which serves as a project collecting department without any consultation and accountability mechanisms in place.

Our democratic leaders highly oppose and detest the local government system because it is the only institution where people from lower classes can get the opportunity to enter the power structure. Even when Local Government is in place its leaders are elected through indirect elections to install the favourites of establishment. Our Defence Policy is based on a National Security State not on a policy based on strong institutions, highly developed human and social capital and a strong and free economy. All these symptoms are caused by one inherent weakness. We do not believe in following the rules and settling disputes by negotiation and merit based decision making. We as individuals and parties cannot have freedom by denying the same to others. All our institutions need to agree to be audited by the people for assessing their performance and our political parties need to train their workers to conduct this audit. Only then can we have a knowledge based and people centered politics. Otherwise our political discourse will meet the fate of Punjabi films Mola Jat and Wahshi Gujjar. Enough is enough..

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