Need to democratise political parties


News & Views

Mohammad Jamil

HOLDING intra-party elections is a constitutional requirement for the political parties to participate in general elections. The problem is that almost all political parties are dynasties or the founders of the parties have complete control over the parties. Even elections in the parties are sham, and the leadership revolves around the founders, members of their families or loyalists. It is indeed heartening to note that the PML-N is all set to hold intra-party elections; however no major changes are expected in the current list of office bearers. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to continue as PML-N President in the upcoming intra-party election due on October 18 at Convention Centre, Islamabad. Reportedly, Central Working Committee (CWC) has been delegated powers to pick up the names for other candidates, and a proposal to increase the number of senior vice presidents and vice presidents is under consideration.
Syed Ghaus Ali Shah, who does not see eye to eye with the central leadership on policy matters, is likely to be replaced by Nihal Hashmi advocate as senior vice president, if the latter is not nominated for Sindh Presidentship of the party. The general council of PML-N has over 1500 members from four provinces, AJK and Gilgit Baltistan yet names of most of these office bearers have been finalized. Nawaz Sharif, who became PML-N president for the first time in 1993, is being seen within the party and outside as a visionary and the only moving force. He had nominated Javed Hashmi as president of the party when he left for Jeddah during Musharraf era. Upon his return five years later in November 2007, he was again elected president unopposed. In Punjab, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, is set to retain the office of party president in Punjab.
PML-N leader Ch. Jaffar Iqbal, who heads a five-member election commission of the party to hold intra-party polls, had called a meeting of the commission, and it was decided to hold polls on 18th October 2016. A section of media reported that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s plan to hand over chairmanship of PML-N to his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif has fallen flat due to resistance by Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif and other senior leaders of the party who were not happy over this idea. However, only loyalists of Sharifs are likely to win the elections, and Nawaz Sharif is likely to be elected unopposed. A political party is defined as an organised group of people with similar political aims and objectives stipulated in their manifestoes. Since the leaderships of major political parties revolve around the founder or his family members, Pakistan could not get second and third tiers of leadership.
This is not only the case with PML-N only, all other parties also are run by the founders of the parties as their fiefdoms. As a matter of fact, ruling classes comprising jagirdars, members of civil and military bureaucracy and comprador industrialists ruled the country under different denominations since inception of Pakistan. According to Hegel, a leader has to be conversant with – rather in harmony with – the spirit of the age. A real leader is a master strategist and a great tactician, who blends pragmatism with idealism to achieve the desired objective of a better life for its people including their safety. Leadership is described as poetry; and its composition depends more on natural instincts and knowledge of an individual and less on his training. A genuine leader with world vision can put society on road to development.
It is an irrefutable fact that the destiny of a nation depends on the determination of its people; but there has to be a leader with vision, courage and wisdom to inspire them to unite in their struggle for safeguarding the sovereignty and independence of their country, and to put it on the path of progress and prosperity. In Pakistan, the myriad political and religious parties, intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals, or government and the opposition parties have variegated stances and perceptions about various issues and challenges facing the country. But there appears to be a consensus that Pakistan is facing a multifaceted crisis, which is the result of lust for power and flawed decisions over half a century. Yet, none of the first seven prime ministers, military dictator Ayub Khan and prime minister late Z.A. Bhutto were ever accused of corruption and plundering of national resources.
For the last four decades, corruption has permeated in almost all strata of society, and members of the ruling elite are considered above the law. In fact, it is not democracy but plutocracy. An ordinary person with middle-class background cannot afford to field himself as a candidate for a provincial or national assembly seat. People seem to be fed up with the present electoral process that sends opulent classes to the assemblies. Unless this vast majority of disgruntled and disappointed citizens are inspired to take interest in national affairs and help reform the society, no change can be brought about in either state of society or in the contours of the national uplift. Not through mechanics of coercion, nor through incentives but by instilling fresh feelings of the obvious in their thoughts and psyche, the people can be roused to march onwards.
Democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people, and exercised directly by them or by their elected representatives under a free electoral system. But we hardly listen to the good governance, participatory democracy, and end of corruption. It would indeed be a welcome development if participatory democracy along with good governance becomes a key issue in the next elections, and political parties outline their commitment to them in their respective manifestoes. It would immensely serve to restore the dwindling popular faith in the present system. Elected governments continue to express fear that democracy could be derailed. The reason is that they do not deliver to the masses. In a society imbued with democratic traditions and values, and where social justice prevails, nobody entertains ideas of having an autocratic or military setup.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.