Senate electoral debacle and Pakistan’s democratic deficit | By Sarah Khan

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Senate electoral debacle and Pakistan’s democratic deficit


“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all”.

Tocqueville stated in “Democracy in America” THE sordid saga of March 2021 Sen ate elections bore ironic resemblance with Indian reality TV show “Kon bnega crore pati?” (Who will become a multi-millionaire?).

Since, money seems to be the raison d’être of political chessboard instead of Aristotle`s vision of Politics that is: To make people live a good life.

This sham bonanza of power and profit inflicted another gruesome blemish upon Pakistan’s infamous political club, it also unravelled that remnants of “Chaanga Maanga” episode blatantly navigate our rudderless political boat.

The dubious role of institutions, particularly ECP, in granting carte blanche to turncoats by perpetuating secret ballot illustrates dire need of institutional renaissance.

Though it‘s convenient to bequeath the entire blame of Pakistan’s democratic deficit to successive bouts of authoritarianism but self-biased political elite cannot shrug off its degenerative political role.

As personal interests overwhelm national interests or greater good, politics has been rendered zero-sum game of Byzantine intrigues, chauvinist manoeuvring, opportunism, partisan squabbling and prognostication.

Consequently, civic values and ideological principles have been banished to innocuous fringes of political discourse.

Myriad videos, circulating on social media, revealed shrewd self-biased bargaining to steal the mandate while lucrative quid pro quo proved to be the final nail in the coffin of ideological principles.

ECP‘s insistence to provide evidence of electoral fraud seems quintessential example of political scientist Robert Kagan‘s concept “Adversarial Legalism” whereby political opponents manipulate fragmented regulatory and administrative machinery to seek partisan benefits, while obstructing justice.

To weather the Machiavellian political storm, the decision to seek a vote of confidence surfaced as a silver lining in dark political clouds.

Though political scientists contend that democracies are always self-correcting systems but it’s not the case.

Francis Fukuyama argues in his work “Political Order and Political Decay” that “democracies are not self-correcting systems when voters are poorly organized and fail to understand their interests correctly”.

While the gullible public exploded into vociferous jubilation as the PDM candidate managed to win a Senate seat, they brutally failed to realize moral bankruptcy against the backdrop of this upset.

Our political elite also mistakenly equate their sheer privilege to democratic liberty, just like pre-revolution French elites.

Our electoral political panorama is in dire need of substantial overhaul to bolster legitimacy, transparency and representative character of elected bodies.

Government’s proposed ordinance to amend section 122 (6) of 2017 Election Act, to hold open-ballot elections of upper house is not enough to rein in unbridled horse-trading, engineered politics and manoeuvring.

Ian Talbot in “Pakistan: A New History” rightly contends that political turmoil of Pakistan can be circumvented by employment of five C`s: Consensus, Consent, Commitment, Conviction and Compassion.

The no-holds-barred approach of opposition and condescending posture of sitting government will perpetuate degenerative political culture.

This allegation and counter-allegation blitzkrieg will hamper profusion of educated middle class in politics and resultantly, kakistocracy will continue to govern our affairs.

The institutionalization of politics is a pressing need of the hour to foster ideology based politics and civic virtues.

To accomplish this objective, national interests must be given primacy in policy making while personal interests must take compulsory backseat.

Since moral bankruptcy is deeply ingrained in our democratic fabric, Benjamin Franklin‘s 1787 assertion holds relevance when he was asked whether the US will be a republic or monarchy, he stated: “A Republic, if you can keep it”.

—The writer is associated with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad and NDU-based Mphil International Relations scholar.

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