NEWS & VIEWS
PRESENT government’s tenure is nearing its completions; to be precise it ends on 31st May 2018, as such race between the political parties to woo the electable (winning candidates) has started. After disqualification of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and with the ongoing cases against Sharif family in the Accountability Court some of the members have already left the PML-N. Quite a few of them are reportedly waiting in the wings, as the PML-N continues to be at loggerheads with the institutions, as they believe that it does not augur well for the system. In the event Nawaz Sharif is convicted, scores of them are likely to ditch the party, as they did after 12th October 1999. Those deserters were taken back in PML-N’s fold before 2013 election, and they are likely to leave the party and join the parties that could serve their interest.
The electable are master political strategists; they sail along the waves and turn the surge to their advantage. There is a myth that electables need political parties, but the fact of the matter is that it is the other way round, as to form government political parties need winning candidates. Most electables have thousands of acres of agriculture land in their constituencies and majority of local people are their peasants and vote as dictated by their masters. In this backdrop, Pakistan is plutocracy and not democracy. Real democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested with the people, and exercised by their elected representatives under a free electoral system.
But we hardly listen to the good governance, participatory democracy and ending corruption. In fact, only 1970 election was fought by the parties on ideological basis. It would indeed be a welcome development if participatory democracy along with good governance becomes a key issue in the upcoming general election. Political parties outline their commitment to the voters in their respective manifestoes which is not honoured. The problem is that even today members of the ruling elite control all the resources of the country and they consider themselves above the law. Moreover, an ordinary person with middle-class background cannot afford to field himself as a candidate for a Provincial or National Assembly seat. Therefore, members of landed aristocracy and industrial robber barons are likely to win. Theoretically, the system of electoral democracy empowers the voters to take away the powers of elected members, if they fall short of popular aspirations and or grossly violate fundamental ideology. While the system adequately provides procedure to impeach the public office holders, the elected representatives go scot-free.
Unfortunately Pakistani democracy depicts different ground reality, as voters after having elected their representatives virtually become subjects of powerful elite, and the latter ride a rough shod over the subjects and shatter all hopes of voters by neglecting their problems, financial difficulties and psychological distress. Promises made during election campaign are forgotten, while perks of public offices are fully enjoyed. Irony of the fate is that same elite group gets elected over and over again and election campaigns are held as mere rituals, because political parties have become dynasties and top leaderships of the parties have assumed unprecedented powers by amending the constitution through 18th Amendment. In rural areas, the electable – winning candidates – have tremendous influence in their constituencies because of land-holdings. Furthermore, they have a long experience of contesting elections; plus they have developed nexus with local power brokers at union and village levels rather than their voters.
At the time of its formation, the PPP was an ideological party, yet except some honourable exceptions, many of its members shamelessly joined Zia’s band wagon; contested and ‘won’ 1985’s party-less elections and became ministers. The Muslim League was reinvigorated under Nawaz Sharif’s leadership after differences emerged between Muhammad Khan Junejo and Zia-ul-Haq. Like the 1985 general election, when a large number of PPP’s ‘electable’ ditched the party, the 2002 general election witnessed a switch in loyalty of many PML-N’s ‘electables’. They enjoyed power, amassed wealth during Musharraf-PML-Q rule; and when they saw government’s downfall because people turned against them, they betrayed their benefactors. Of course, they have their vote bank, yet they seek additional votes to make sure that they are in the assemblies. One would not know why popular leaders embrace the known and compulsive deserters time and again?
PML-N leaders continue with their scathing criticism of judiciary and other political parties. Prime Minister’s acerbic remarks against Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani sparked protests from the PPP, PTI and other political parties. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had said: “The little-known politician from Balochistan was elected through bought votes. We are proud to say that PML-N is the only party which hasn’t spent a single penny in the Senate elections. Other Senators, who were elected to the Senate, had no representation in Parliament. Those who have been elected by spending money cannot serve Pakistan.” The opposition parties claim that it was the PML-N that had introduced the politics of horse trading starting from Changa Manga. In fact, almost all political parties or leaders who today claim to be champions of democracy had in the past joined the kings party or supported the military dictators. Hence, they should not question other leaders’ democratic credentials.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.