Canning democracy


It’s the peoples’ system and the people shall fix it

Who says Pakistan’s political leadership wants democracy? Review the last week and give me a realistic answer! There is a hue and cry designed to disenfranchise the electorate. The government is being asked to go. By so-called ‘new’ democrats, part and parcel of the very same system albeit sidelined for now, who intend to replace it. There is nothing new on offer; it’s the ‘same ole’ ganging up under new apparel. The moot question: is the Pakistani electorate going to fall for this sham again?

I for one sincerely hope not. Democracy is the right of free vote, the guarantee of freedom and defined unequivocally as ‘of the people, for the people and by the people’. This is denied to us by the existing system. What we have is an elitist democracy designed for those in political power and those in cahoots with them. “In political power” here defines all those in political reckoning, whether in or out of office, with a highly affected sense of entitlement.

It is this sense of entitlement that is behind the creation of hundreds of registered political parties that operate with no ostensible financial resources, without a programme and perhaps with just a council and some lackeys. They neither go to the polls nor perform any visible political function. There very existence is questionable. The continued absence of qualifying criteria is condemnable.

The free right of the people exists only to the extent of the vote. That too is dubious as it is, to a very large degree, sequestered within the feudal and baraderi systems. The voter becomes irrelevant once a representative is elected. Within parliaments and the various echelons of power, a different energy prevails. That energy is concentrated purely on the machinations of aggrandising the so-called elite.

The current emergence of alternate political options is very welcome. The peoples’ euphoria is based on the belief that, perhaps, things will be different. A huge press campaign on the Internet is discussing whether Imran Khan can or cannot bring “change”. It’s a very relevant discussion. However, a lot is inspired by rhetoric and the emotional response to it. It is this emotional response that politicians prey upon because it does not demand an inviolable commitment. All it does is whip up frenzy. Under the present political system, nothing will ever change.

It has been a downer to see that the emerging leadership is seeking to befriend electable candidates in an environment that is mentally prepared for a real change. The concept of murshid and mureed is the very crux of what is damaging the peoples’ rights. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto provided the real alternative in the 1970 election. His slogan delivered the ballot despite the fact that it attacked a ‘benevolent’ dictatorship during which Pakistan prospered more than at any other time. His first parliament consisted of primarily of those who at the time were termed unelectable. That was his political tidal wave.

The electronic media has unleashed a deluge of talk show participants who promote and project political programmes and visions, if that is what they can be called, and argue incessantly in favour of literally nothing. I don’t know what the program is called but the recent skit depicting Imran is pertinently factual of what is being said and the manner that it is being said.

The time is here for the people to change the politician. It is apparent that political parties will continue to fight each other on rhetoric-based platforms with the usual promise of solving all problems once in office. The manifestoes are only released under duress picking up a few issues without any penalties for default. We need to change this.

The people should provide the manifesto and criteria for electing its future leadership. There are existing, unmet demands that need reiteration and specific policy decisions regarding modus operandi and timeframe for resolution. There are expectations, aspirations, perhaps one can go so far as calling it a peoples’ vision; these need to be expressed and responded to by political aspirants. These need to quantified, recorded and published. Someone, perhaps an organisation, with the resources needs to take up the challenge.

The electronic media needs to play a national role in ensuring that coherent responses and answers are made available to the electorate. Their responsibility does not lie simply with providing entertainment by relaying political squabbles or doctored on-line telephone calls. Let the electorate view the responses of all political parties to their specific questions. And let them elect candidates based on their declared values.

There has been a huge amount of “chunna lagaoing” for the last sixty years while the nation has shouted itself hoarse. It’s time for delivery. The last thing Pakistanis want to see five years down the line is a similar clamour for recognition. Democracy is embodied in the constitution; it is the peoples’ right, no one must be allowed to can it.

The writer may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]