Morality and public leaders

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We need a change in system

All over the world the public representatives, especially the parliamentarians, ministers, chief executives and presidents are expected to set and have high standards of morality and honesty because for the leaders to be able to discharge their public duties and carry forward the mantle of public trust, it is essential that they have an untainted past and an irreproachable integrity. Unfortunately these crucial human traits has been lacking among our parliamentarians and public leaders who – barring a few exceptions – have acted as carpet baggers dedicated to exponentially enhancing their fortunes through fair and unfair means rather than promoting the well being of the masses. Politics, for them is an industry and becoming a member of the parliament is a license to expand their profits. This materialistic bent of mind is a contributory factor to their attempts to circumvent the laws through corrupt practices to become a member of the parliament that confers on them the political power and the fortune that comes with it.

The fake degrees scam is a shameful example of their dirty machinations and a ranting proof of their immorality that portrays them as the worst kind of scoundrels and cheaters. Nevertheless it is heartening to note that finally their day of reckoning has come for some of them and they would find it difficult to escape the dragnet cast by the SC and ECP. The SC has rightly taken a very strong position on the issue and fifty four former parliamentarians whose degrees have already been found fake are surely going to miss the bus besides facing legal action for their acts of forgery. Another 189 who have not presented their degrees and educational certificates for verification have been advised to get their documents verified within three days. To help the process to be completed, reportedly, the offices of ECP, HEC and controllers of examinations of all universities will remain open till mid night of 5th of April. Who knows how many more will join the list of cheaters as a result of this scrutiny. Thanks also to the media which unearthed this scandal, kept it alive and built public pressure for punitive action against these unscrupulous elements and the so-called public representatives.

The sordid aspect of this disgraceful conduct is that the leadership of the political parties has knowingly looked the other way and even attempts have been made to protect the wrongdoers. In a system of numbers game their primary concern has been to have as many winning horses as possible to clinch political power. Though the efforts of the SC, ECP and the media, to ensure that only people with unblemished character and reputation get into the assemblies, are very encouraging but they are not going to bring any substantive change in our political culture unless a change is effected in the way we elect our public representatives. The feudal character of our political system that promotes politics of graft and entitlement is the real culprit and needs to be changed. It is pertinent to note that majority of the 342 constituencies for electing federal parliament is in the rural areas, a bastion of power for the feudal lords. They have a vested interest in the perpetuation of the colonial system of governance and electing public representatives.

The culture of corruption and horse trading are the hallmarks of this brand of politics. Democracy is the only option for this country. The political parties deserve appreciation for ensuring the continuation of the democratic process. However, the democratic dispensation has to be responsive to the ground realities and geared to promoting the national interest and the well being of the people rather than serving the interests of the elite. The system in vogue has brought untold miseries on the hapless masses and done nothing, except for creating islands of affluence among the oceans of poverty. There is a general consensus that we need a change in the political system.

The political parties must learn from history and feel the pulse of the masses. If they fail to cleanse the mess and affect necessary changes, they will become irrelevant to any future arrangement of governance in this country. 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. Under this system people vote for the parties rather than the individual candidates in a single constituency system 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 winning horses and they can nominate really competent and educated people from different walks of national life to represent the party in the parliament. The system also eliminates the possibility of horse trading and floor-crossing for personal gains. The biggest advantage of this system is that it eliminates systemic corruption. 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.

To effect these changes, amendments in the constitution will have to be made and it will be in the interest of all the political parties and Pakistan that these reforms are given top priority. Now that the parliament stands dissolved there is no possibility of carrying out these reforms before elections. However, after the elections, the parties winning the public franchise must get together and bring the required systemic reforms within six months and hold fresh elections under the new system. One can genuinely hope that through the combined efforts of the SC, ECP and non-partisan caretaker setups committed to holding free and fair elections, we will have good stuff coming to the parliament.

The political parties have already shown commitment to the national causes by unanimously carrying out 18th, 19th and 20th amendments in the constitution and also by adopting the 7th NFC Award with consensus. 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 founding father. He must be turning in his grave to see what we have done to his and our Pakistan.

The writer is an academic.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Writer failed to analyze the performance of SC vs president letter to swiss courts. This was a drama from CJ-SC to muster public support else the matter was too simple to be decided at home.

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