Public servants not master

In South Asia on 17. January 2012 at 10:28

Article is also published at The Express Tribune Blogs

Pakistan’s administrative setup was influenced after the British Westminster system, with an elected legislative assembly which in turn gives form to an executive government headed by the Prime Minister. President was to hold a symbolic role while the judiciary was set to be independent. It remains a fact, that Pakistan despite the narrow scope in the electorate was a product of democracy, and therefore will only thrive and succeed if it is democratic in structure and spirit.

The continuing hampering course Pakistan is passing is not helping its way towards a true democratic nation which can grow powerful on economic growth and deliver welfare to its people. We have military dictators who rule for about one decade or so only to be sacked (or die in airplane crash) and replaced by democratic elected feudal elite which is interested in protocols rather than their subject’s wellbeing.

In addition, the influence of the army and until lately the President’s powers to dissolve assemblies has caused much disturbance in the case of elected governments. The 90s is a sad chapter in the democratic history of Pakistan where the troika of the President, Prime Minister and Army Chief all tried to fight each others. The independent judiciary either took the side of those in uniform or was harassed by politicians if they did not found the rulings to be of liking.

Such is again happening these days, and such will continue in the unforeseeable future in the world’s perhaps 27th largest economy (GDP PPP) and the 6th largest country by the size of population. Not to forget a nuclear power which has a quarter of its budget allocated to defense (Rs 495,2 billion for 2011-2012, it does not include pensions to military personnel), while peanuts to health and education sectors. Government tries each year to reduce the increase of the allotment to this department, only to get cold shoulders from Generals.

These days the government is struggling against the army regarding the “memogate” scandal, and the Supreme Court regarding the NRO verdict. Both cases have got national attention and can conclude in the government either to be ousted by force in a coup (highly unlikely) or made to by court ruling. Back-channel pressure from Army and huge unpopularity from the grassroots movements can support such a downfall. The upcoming election to Senate in March 2012 is in this process quite important as the governmental Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is believed to bag the biggest majority ever in its legislative history. This will pave the way for a PPP power even if it loses the 2013 general election.
In these tense times, where army puts pressure on the government and where many pockets of the nations territory is under army operation it is healthy that all political parties join hands to strengthen what is best for them all.

You can have difference in opinion on what kind of penal code Pakistan needs, on the amount of provinces needed and so on. But all the political parties do agree that democratic process is the only way possible out of this quagmire. Why you ask? It is simply because the political parties are registered as parties under the political parties act by the Election Commission Pakistan. They all understand that their function is to make umeedvaar to fight and campaign elections, to fill assemblies and to pass legislation.
When this very process is at risk being undermined by a powerful Generals Head Quarter (GHQ), which dictates much of the defense, foreign and parts of finance policies then one voice needs to be uttered. And that voice is that enough is enough!

Enough of blackmailing of political office holders, of directing public opinion through mass media and enough of rumors where force once was used. The gentlemen in khakis are highly professional in their training, discipline and conduct when it comes to their own chain of command. They need to remain so and nothing more. Only then can political parties try and error, election after election, government after government, being tried and voted out by the people so democratic institutions can become transparent in the long term, and therefore auditable.

True democracies needs time, and it demands patience from the public. True democracies are in addition not the name of assemblies and elections each five year only. It is the result of rule of law and that all its citizens are equal before the law.

Further on, if our political leaders, despite their faults (and those are many) and despite their short term memory (because much of the past is murky) manage to form a principle platform to end the current constitutional crisis they themselves also needs to democratize their political parties.

The ongoing inheritance of parties among ruling families can only end if party democracy is strengthened. It can only be done if the party manifesto is put higher than any person or family. Today if three lawmakers gather together, they automatically form a party. One being President, another General Secretary and the third forming a new faction already because of differences. If ideas are infested in manifestos, the personal based politics will decrease and political parties will fill ranks because of ideological leanings.

Once political parties get to experience some time with such party democracy, and the politicians manage to experience some periods as legislators, without any interruption from unconstitutional means healthy political debates and national strategies can be formed. Developing countries need committed long term plans and projects. The budgets must reflect so. Power must to some degree be devolved with attached financial means and all its citizens must have the same rights, no matter if it is in the lawless tribal areas or the well protected Clifton in Karachi.

As a bonus, the elected governments and legislators can thereby finally determine what Pakistan’s national interest really is. Rate of literacy among men and women, rate of unemployment, fertility rate, students who fulfill higher education and in addition roll into related jobs and you name it will be indicators of national interest. Attracting investment in a stable period will generate jobs. The tax system will be effective when politicians slowly deliver as voters will gain trust and our dear minorities can finally call this land their home and at the same time be proud of their culture and religion.


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