Pakistan Observer

Cracks appear in democratic set-up

Zafar Alam Sarwar

Wednesday, March 09, 2011 - People have a craving for democracy. In the past they sacrificed even their lives for the sake of it. They knew the founder of Pakistan had adopted democratic means to achieve an independent homeland for Muslims of South Asia, where they would be able to establish their own real democratic popular government to function with the will and sanction of masses, irrespective of caster, creed, or colour. The journey to democracy was long and fraught with problems which had to be overcome intelligently by leaders who believed in the common man’s welfare. Successes were many but short-lived. One can cite the latest example in that context the formation of coalition governments in provinces and the Centre on a democratic pattern after the February 2008 elections.

The spirit of democracy was transparent most of time despite some misunderstanding between top leaders of two major partners in power set-up, the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Pakistan People’s Party. The start of the march towards democracy was promising in the light of the Charter of Democracy (COD) signed by Mohtarma Benzir Bhutto and Mr. Nawaz Sharif in London on May 14, 2006.

Through this Charter the elected leaders noted their responsibility to people to set an alternative direction for the country, saving it from its predicaments on an economically sustainable, socially progressive, politically democratic and pluralist, federally co-operative, ideologically tolerant, internationally respectable and regionally peaceful basis in the larger interest of the people of Pakistan to decide, once and for all, that only the people, and no one else, has the sovereign right to govern through their elected representatives, as conceived by the democrat par excellence, the father of the nation Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

The PPP-led coalition government began working with four critical challenges at hand: democratization of the state; detalibization of Pakistani society; restoration of the cohesion of federation; and the country’s macroeconomic stabilization. The underlying idea of the policy of national reconciliation was, and remains, healing the wounds of a fractured federation guided by the spirit of COD, which is historically the third most important consensus document of the country. If the first two years of the life of the document are taken into account, one will come to know that practically the signatories were in power for 706 days (51%) since March 28, 2008. That means a short duration (as on March 3, 2010) but compliance of the people’s government with the COD resolutions has been impressive if judged impartially.

The common man thought the stalwarts of new political dispensation would come up to his expectation as regards better socio-economic life and opportunities. He now blames the coalition partners for sleeping over the cause of the downtrodden. Most targeted for criticism by majority of the masses is also the PML-N who, they argue, worked at a snail’s pace to address the social, economic and educational problems of the people, nor did its members in assemblies speak loudly in support of the poor.

What did the term ‘friendly opposition’ mean? Was the PML-N leader actually struggling for political power under the democratic umbrella? Did he have an axe to grind? Such questions have been answered by the newest modus operandi of the former prime minister. He announced parting of ways with PPP in the Punjab at a press conference in Islamabad on February 25, also disclosing that a new provincial cabinet would be formed without any PPP minister. He leveled a number of charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, including “no encouraging response” to PML-N’s 10-point reforms agenda.

Removal of 13 parliamentary secretaries belonging to PPP and seven ministers is part of the plan of the Punjab government headed by Mr. Shahbaz Sharif who is reportedly habitual of obeying orders of his brother in the mutual interest. People ask one another: Does all this come under purview of the Charter of Democracy?

The PPP response to what the PML-N leaders have done to the newly woven fabric of democracy is encouraging anyhow. It has decided to sit on the opposition benches in the Punjab Assembly in good faith to serve the cause of the masses and make the PML-N administration accountable to them by playing an active and vibrant role. PPP federal ministers Raza Rabbani and Dr. Babar Awan and party’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira , told media persons in Islamabad on February 25 that “PML-N’s much trumpeted 10-point agenda is part of PPP’s manifesto and the federal government shall continue to implement it, there will not be any pause in this respect in spite of the unpleasant decisions of the provincial government, and there is no intention to table any no-confidence motion against the Punjab chief minister.

Students of political science say “this is heartening news as much as the PPP leaders’ renewal of their pledge to follow the policy of reconciliation.” What nullifies the allegations against the PPP-led coalition and President Zradari is Mr. Raza Rabbani declaration at the Press conference that his party will not become party to destabilize the current system. He is Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Co-ordination.

The mass of people have expressed surprise over the decision of the PML-N top leader’s decision to welcome back all those deserters who have been termed turncoats of the PML-Q. Even the common man continues to react impatiently to such a tactic widely condemned across the country in the past. This is, in fact, against the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan and the principles of democracy and morality.

The so-called ‘unification group’ of the members of the Punjab Assembly won the election on the PML-Q platform. It amounts to misconduct of rules to change party loyalty without seeking a fresh mandate from the voters of the constituency concerned under the banner of another political organization. Following such an unconstitutional, illegal and immoral practice in a fledgling democracy will eventually pollute the whole atmosphere and will mean killing a newly-born baby. God forbid, the entire system will collapse if such a nasty thing happens. Who will be the real culprit and who will catch him?

The freedom and democracy-loving people have already suffered a lot from such a malpractice, they have learnt many things from the mistakes of politicians, so they may find a way to get rid of such wrong-doers. People recall long association of Nawaz Sharif with General Zia-ul-Haq for political power, and accuse him of creating hurdles in journey to democracy. Simultaneously, they judge seriously the transfer of some presidential powers to an elected prime minister and parliament and president’s effort let the democratic system function freely.

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