IN the backdrop of Senate elections, Imran Khan was the first political leader who raised the issue of horse-trading and even said that 17 PTI MPAs in KP Assembly had participated in that dirty game. A lot was said and commented upon in the media also which strongly corroborated money having played a part in buying the loyalties of the MPAs. The same was said about the election of the Chairman senate and deputy chairman senate. But when the Prime Minister alluded to that detestable enactment, the PTI reacted strongly to his observations. The PTI chairman Imran Khan in a statement two days ago claimed that the election of Chairman of senate from Balochistan represented victory for PTI. In other words it was a somersault on his earlier position and he actually preferred the argument that he only cared about the achievement of the objectives without bothering about the legitimacy of the means employed. The fact is that what happened in the senate elections is a matter of shame.
Horse-trading unfortunately has invariably been the hall mark of Pakistani politics because of the failure of the political forces to effect systemic changes to usher in an era of real democracy in the country. The present system of electing our representatives is the root cause of all the ailments that afflict the political canvass of the country. Elections to Parliament and Provincial Assemblies on single constituency basis and indirect elections for the Senate that give birth to the number game encourage horse-trading by the parties to clinch or preserve power. It has made politics an industry where the elected people instead of focusing on serving the people strive to build fortunes for themselves. The crises triggered by political parties have often led to change of government through military coups. It was probably the right time to give a serious thought to changing the way we elect our representatives. It is in the interest of the political parties themselves and the country to use their collective wisdom to end this vicious circle of horse-trading otherwise the country would remain prone to political crisis.
For a multi-cultural country like Pakistan there is an imperative need to adopt the system of proportional representation. Under this system people vote for the parties rather than the individual candidates in a single constituency and the parties get representation in the parliament on the basis of the percentage of votes that they poll. The advantage of this system is that it reflects the real support for the political parties among the masses and also ensures the presence of smaller and regional parties in Parliament making the legislature a truly representative body. The party leaders are spared of the blackmail of the electables and they can nominate really competent and educated people from different walks of national life to represent the party in Parliament. The system also eliminates the possibility of horse trading and floor-crossing for personal gains. To make this system really workable voting will also have to be made compulsory so that every registered voter can exercise his right of franchise. To eliminate chances of horse-trading in the senate elections it is advisable to have the senators directly elected like the members of National Assembly.
The possibilities of unnecessary wrangling between the political parties on matters like the date of elections and the formation of care taker set-up must also be removed permanently. Like in US the parties must agree on one date on which the election will be held after every five years and the matter should no more be the prerogative of the sitting government to decide. Similarly the formation of the care taker set up should also be decided once and for all so that the parties can focus more on their programmes rather than wasting their energies on non substantive issues. Judiciary is the most respectable and trusted institution of the country and it would be advisable for the parties to agree on the point that the senior most retired judge of the Supreme Court would head the care taker set up and he would be free to choose his team to hold free and fair elections and also run the affairs of the government till the new elected government assumes charge.
As regards the elimination of corruption in the bureaucracy and at higher echelons of the government, the discretionary powers at all levels should be abolished. That will help to a great extent in tackling the menace of corruption. All these changes should be effected through amendments in the constitution as it would be in the interest of all the parties themselves as well as in the larger interest of the country. The parties have already shown commitment to the national causes by unanimously carrying out Eighteenth, Nineteenth and Twentieth Amendment in the constitution and also giving their blessings to the adoption of the 7th NFC Award. They must show the same zeal and dedication in changing the system on the foregoing lines to put the country on the course envisioned by the Quaid. May be it is not possible to carry out these amendments in a short span of time before the elections as it would require an exhaustive process of deliberations, therefore, the parties can take up these issues after the elections and have the changes effected within six months and then go to the polls again under the reformed system. The political forces must also learn to tolerate each other, respect the mandate of the people, try to strengthen parliament and put up collective resistance to attempts by any individual and institution to overlord parliament and the executive. Remaining divided and fractured would add to their vulnerabilities as well as undermine democracy and constitutional rule in the country.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.