Democracy in reverse

  • 18th amendment this time

Yet again our politicians reduce the democratic process to a give-and-take arrangement –political as well as financial – restricted to the political and ‘establishment’ elite. The transfer of certain powers — especially financial — to provisional governments in the 18th amendment, for example, was the beginning of a process to facilitate eventual delivery in the interest of the people, not some institution or set of individuals. What was subsequently needed, in fact, was a mechanism ensuring that funds now in the hands of the provinces were dispersed transparently.

Of all the voices questioning the amendment, including the Fund, the loudest is Miftah Ismail’s. However the lament that the centre’s share out of the NFC award (42.5pc of tax revenue) is taken up by debt servicing alone is, in fact, just an admission of the government’s inability to raise production and revenue; not to mention the finance ministry’s addiction to borrowing that made debt a black hole to begin with. Also, Ismail’s statements betray a disregard for the fact that the government has been running predominantly on borrowed money since before the 18th amendment. His prescription of choice for the deficit – devaluation — will only squeeze the people as inflation rises without providing any security net.

A similar misrepresentation of democracy was witnessed just recently in the Senate elections. The constitution mandates both houses of parliament to enact legislation, again, in the interest of the people. Yet the election, with all the allegations of horse trading, etc, was mostly just a circus about which party walked away with how much of what. The people, as always, were missing from the debate altogether. The sad state of local governments is yet another example. The government had to be arm-twisted into holding local body polls by the Supreme Court. And even then they were stripped of any real powers, contrary to the spirit of devolution of power to the grassroot. Our politicians, unfortunately, seem bent upon reversing the fruits of democracy more than anyone else.