True democracy, merit and accountability needed

Rayyan Baig

DEMOCRACY means a system of government by citizens through elected representatives from among themselves, who form a governing body to run the affairs of the state. The main purpose of the democracy is to ensure that the decision making by the elected representatives is done as per the voices and aspirations of the society and for their collective wellbeing. Greece is considered the birth place of democracy and Pericles is credited with being the first one to use the power of popular vote to establish the rule. With the introduction of democracy, the real dawn of civilization took place in the West, the 4th Century BC is considered the golden age of civilization under democracy.
There have been various forms of governments in the recorded history, but the democratic governments have left lasting impression in the modern history. Not only does the democracy give the right to choose and live to its citizens it brings progress and prosperity as well. Britain and then USA progressed and became world leaders under democracy. Though there are lot of democratic countries/ governments in the world but baring few a lot have failed to develop the societies or change the fate of their nations. In any democratic system the political leaders are the lynchpin and main driving force for the development of society and the progress of the country.
All the politicians are not born statesmen neither can all acquire this acumen even after spending decades in this métier. A statesman changes the destiny of his nation by his foresightedness and vision whereas a good politician, not a statesman, faces the challenges confronting his people and alleviates their sufferings. A dishonest and corrupt politician, however, adds to the sufferings of his people, retards the progress of the country and even may mortgage the entire nation for his personal gains. The successful democratic countries put a premium on the character and the honesty of their elected representatives. Not only are the rules quite stringent but high standards of moral values are also set for those aspiring to represent the people. Any candidate aspiring to hold a public office is answerable even for his past deeds.
After acceding to office, he remains under the scrutiny of institutions and watchful eye of media and doesn’t hide behind any indemnity, especially in financial matters. Anyone found guilty loses his carrier forever and lives with the stigma for the rest of his life. US serving Vice President Spiro Agnew was removed from the office on the charges of fraud/ bribery (amounting to just around $ 100,000) in 1973. Later he had to pay double the amount to Maryland State and faded out into oblivion. In developed countries the public office holders even spending just a few thousand dollars of tax payer’s money, outside their entitlement, are held accountable, it’s because of the stringent checks and balance that these countries have become developed and great.
In successful countries the politics is a passion and those joining have a desire to serve and lead their people, whereas in third world countries including Pakistan people generally join politics to gain power and make money. Unfortunately, the politics in Pakistan has become a family business, the leadership descends to the offspring, as legal hires or revolves within family, without any merit.
Due to repeated interruptions in Pakistani democracy the legacy of real/ old politics got lost somewhere. Though there is no dearth of dedicated, honest and upright politicians in Pakistan, but unfortunately most of them too have become hostage of family politics. The politics has become a corporate enterprise where people invest by purchasing nominations and then reap the fruits of power and make money by hook or by crook. Not only political system has corrupted the entire government system has also been infected. The competent and upright bureaucrats who have the moral courage to say no to illegal orders are side lined but those who are ready to obey any orders are awarded prized postings, rewarded with bounties and get accelerated promotions.
Surprisingly, seldom has any politician suffered a loss in his personal business rather their businesses thrive, their industries and properties multiply with astounding proportions. However, similar public industries under them generally run in loss. A new phenomena of money business has crept into politics, in the past there used to be few rumors about the use of money in politics, but now it has become an open secret. In the impending Senate elections, the use of money has been laid bare open and has become talk of the town. It’s but natural that anyone who invests would first try to recover the amount spent by him in getting elected and then the unending story of plunder starts. The money spent and earned in this way, in any case, is not documented money thus detrimental to the economy of Pakistan as well.
There is no denying the fact that democracy is the only solution to all the problems confronting Pakistan. However, the democracy should serve the public and the country, instead of serving the personal interests of a few. Without stringent accountability and check and balance the democracy is unlikely to take the country anywhere. The use of money in politics needs to be curbed, for this purpose, necessary legislation be done, and direct elections should also be held for the senate. Anyone misusing the power for his personal gains or plundering the public money be made an example and barred from any public office for the rest of his life. Democracy should serve to check corruption in the government departments/ bureaucracy rather than making those accomplices in corruption.
The corruption in the form of allocating recruitment quotas to elected representatives be done away with and the merit should be made the only criteria for the jobs. The state institutions can only function efficiently when they are manned by competent and honest individuals selected trough merit based transparent selection system. The bureaucrats are the saviors of Pakistan, it were they who helped Pakistan come out of the wretched state of affairs in 1947. They are the custodians of state machinery and should remain loyal to the state instead of personalities.

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