Bridging democratic deficit | By Riaz Missen


Bridging democratic deficit

There are rumours of a technocratic government replacing the coalition partners’, as a measure to bridge the democratic deficit and, thereby, restore the credibility of civilian regimes to deliver.

The ‘conspiracy theory’, as it can be termed right on this stage, is getting fair ground in the federal capital and, consequently, has travelled far and wide down to the Arabian Sea.

To weigh the arguments of the opposing mainstream political parties, even the ones being part and the parcel of coalition government, one need to probe into the nature and contours of the reformation agenda the technocratic governments is likely to take up.

Whatever the strategy it settles down, the objective of this clinical exercise will determine when and how the next general elections will be held.

To exercise their right to vote and the political parties to represent peoples’ aspiration in Parliament, the reformation process must reach its logical end.

The ‘interim period’ is being speculated to range up to 2.5 long years but given the reality of being in a difficult neighbourhood and climate change having devastatingly affected its road and irrigation infrastructure the sense of uncertainty on the part of major parties are equally well-founded.

Since constitutional obligations for the right of representation will remain suspended for the national and provincial assemblies, the third-tier of government, which has often faced hurdles at the hands of provincial governments, are likely to play a key role to revitalize the people and strengthen their resolve to combat hunger and natural disasters, the twin threats disturbing the survival calculus.

That, at least, two leading parties of the country, the PTI and the PPP, have come to open in their opposition to any arbitrary political set-up, must certainly be mulling over the prospects whether the surgical operation undertaken under the spell of some emergency provisions or a sort of judicial activism.

The unification of MQM factions has certainly disturbed certain equations for the PPP while the PTI has taken it as an attempt to cut the ex-ruling party down to the size in Sindh and deprive it from a say in the affairs of the port city.

There has always been a fair chance of the PPP and the PTI tying their knots to jointly benefit from the marginalization of the MQM, at least, in Karachi.

The PPP, however, took PTI’s penetration into urban Sindh, for granted and used it as an opportunity to deny the province from/of fruits of devolution.

The coalition government did not honour its commitment with the MQM regarding the devolution of power to the grassroots level.

The legislation to deliver local governments as per the spirit of the constitution has to be made while the second phase of local elections remains a long delayed matter.

So, there is going to be bottom-top approach as far as the gossips of technocratic government make rounds in the political camps.

The reality of Karachi Accord, which took the MQM to the PDM camp, having broken duly attests to the credibility of the rumours.

If technocratic government sends the coalition partners packing, there are least chances that the PTI will be let in to the corridors of power, either.

On the other hand, the PTI being on roads has not deterred ‘opportunistic’ politics on the other side of the divide.

The political parties, which were clearly told last year by the Institution, through long meetings with star anchors, that all need to recognize their boundaries to be on the safe side.

This led PTI to disbelief while ‘chartered parties’ to pounce on the opportunity to make their way back to the corridors of power by artfully playing the number game.

Putting ‘the house’ in order essentially means structural reforms, we have been hearing from the IMF so often, which successive regimes have shied off despite huge loans.

The task is as arduous as removing the risk of insolvency as well as putting the country on growth trajectory.

So, technocrats, if given a free hand, they are expected nothing less than miracles. An economic turnaround is not possible without passing the fruits of democracy down to the grassroots.

It essentially means restoring liberties and restoring to them their right to prosper through sustainable use of natural resources.

Putting third tier of government fully operational will ensure that the technocrats will not err but staying true to basics.

The bottom-top approach will urge districts and divisions to compete each other for improving environment and, thereby, raising standards of life.

Restoration of liberties, by humanizing penal codes, will unleash energies required for wealth creation.

Technocrats will have to remove legal and normative hurdles suppressing vitality and growth and, consequently, denying the country to connect with the countries and regions around.

If technocratic government lands in Pakistan, the country will serve as litmus test for the rest of the developing economies facing stagnation and, consequently, confronting ‘democratic’ deficit.

The earlier the political parties are handed over the reins of power, the more successful the experiment will be regarded.

—The writer is politico-strategic analyst based in Islamabad.