Changes that we need

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It is the election system that needs to be changed

Needless to emphasise that change in the political system is inevitable and almost all the segments of the society except the predatory and anti-democracy elements, are unanimous on the point that the country needs continuation of an uninterrupted democracy to achieve the objectives of its creation and winning a respectable place in the comity of nations. Elections are barely three months away – if everything goes well – and all the parties have already launched their election campaigns. New alliances are being stitched and as usual the barbs are being thrown at each other. The focus regrettably is on non-issues instead of the real challenges confronting the country, the strategy to mitigate their debilitating impact on the polity and the way the political culture of the country will be transformed from a catalyst of politics of graft and entitlement into a people friendly democratic polity.

There are no two opinions about the fact that the feudal character of our political system is the root cause of all the ills that this country is afflicted with and requires to be replaced by a system that is truly democratic in nature and responsive to the needs of the society. It is interesting to note that out of the 342 seats of the National assembly, nearly 250 constituencies are in the rural and tribal areas and most of the traditional political families and their allies completely dominate these electoral entities. Their assured position of being electable from these constituencies in a system based on single constituency puts them in an unassailable position and every political party has perforce to rely on them to win required numbers to form the government.

They have a well-entrenched vested interest in the continuation of the present system and therefore they use their clout to blackmail the governments and prevent any change inimical to their interests. The culture of corruption and horse trading are the hallmarks of this brand of politics. Majority of these politicians are illiterate or semi-literate and never participate in the deliberations of the parliament. The record reveals that more than half of them have never uttered a single word in the assembly. Politics for them is an industry and they invest to multiply their fortunes through corruption and power that comes with being member of the parliament.

In a culture mired in corruption, these members also have reproachable credentials and integrity as has been revealed in the fake degrees scam of the parliamentarians. How can one expect such people to act honestly and axe their own feet by bringing changes in the system.

The political parties must learn from history and feel the pulse of the masses. If they fail to cleanse the mess and effect necessary changes, they will become irrelevant to any future arrangement of governance in this country. The PPP, which arguably is the biggest political force in the country with established credentials as party of the masses and a protector of whatever democracy exists in this country, owes it more to the people to take the initiative of changing the feudal character of our politics and reform the process of elections.

The best way to break the hold of the feudal lords on the political power in this country is to adopt the system of proportional representation for electing our parliamentarians. Under this system people vote for the parties rather than the individual candidates in a single constituency and the parties get representation in the parliament on the basis of the percentage of votes that they poll. The advantage of this system is that it reflects the real support for the political parties among the masses and also ensures the presence of smaller and regional parties in the parliament making the legislature a truly representative body. The party leaders are spared of the blackmail of the electables and they can nominate really competent and educated people from different walks of national life to represent the party in the parliament.

This system also eliminates the possibility of horse trading and floor-crossing for personal gains. To make this system really workable voting will also have to be made compulsory so that every registered voter can exercise his right of franchise.

The possibilities of unnecessary wrangling between the political parties on matters like the date of elections and the formation of caretaker setup, must also be removed permanently. Like in US the parties must agree on one date on which the election will be held after every five years and the matter should no more be the prerogative of the sitting government to decide. Similarly, the formation of the caretaker setup should also be decided once and for all so that the parties can focus more on their programmes rather than wasting their energies on non-substantive issues.

Judiciary is the most respectable and trusted institution of the country and it would be advisable for the parties to agree on the point that the last retired and living judge of the Supreme Court would head the caretaker setup and he would be free to choose his team to hold free and fair elections and also run the affairs of the government till the new elected government assumes charge.

As regards the elimination of corruption in the bureaucracy and at higher echelons of the government, the discretionary powers at all levels should be abolished. That will help to a great extent in tackling the menace of corruption. All these changes should be effected through amendments in the constitution as it would be in the interest of all the parties themselves as well as in the larger interest of the country. The parties have already shown commitment to the national causes by unanimously carrying out eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth amendment in the constitution and also giving their blessings to the adoption of the 7th NFC Award.

They must show the same zeal and dedication in changing the system on the foregoing lines to put the country on the course envisioned by the Quaid. It might not be possible to carry out these amendments in a short span of time before the elections as it would require an exhaustive process of deliberations. Therefore, the parties can take up these issues after the lections and have the changes effected within six months and then go to the polls again under the reformed system.

The writer is an academic.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hats-off to the writer…Salute you Sir….so very true…but who will bring this change ? & when ?

  2. We don't need ameerul momineen nawaz sharif,amirul manafiqeen shabaz shareef or thug zardaris.The real terrorists are hiding in Raiwind.Fear (sharif brothers ) God for the day of judgement where no saudi king will bail you out

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