Moving towards a controlled democracy?

  • Stop the slide before it’s too late

Concerns are being expressed that the system is being turned into a controlled democracy. One can see shadows of things happening behind the scenes without being able to clearly recognise the faces. Important decisions are being taken at unknown quarters and announced without discussion in relevant institutions. Policies that can have wide ranging impact are being formulated without seeking inputs from stake holders.

A few days back Fawad Chaudhry told a Senate committee that the PTI government would regulate all media and “no one will be able to defame anyone under the new law”. This is not the way things are done in a democracy. Instead of “regulating “ the media, democracies enact strong laws with prohibitory damages for libel, slander and defamation and anyone making the defamatory statement is promptly made to suffer the consequences. Instead of empowering the courts, the government wants to concentrate powers in its own hands to arbitrarily punish the critics.

The tendency to concentrate powers in the central government is against the letter and spirit of a federal form of government. PTI ministers however continue to extend threats to interfere in strictly provincial matters indicating their anti-federal mindset. This has led a number of politicians to conclude that the government has decided to strike down the 18th amendment. Any move in the direction will release the genie of parochialism that was bottled up with the implementation of the amendment

Another expression of the strong centrist mindset is the announcement to accommodate the needs of FATA through an arbitrary and unilateral reduction in the provinces’ share in divisible pool of taxes enacted in the 7th NFC Award. The Award was a hard-won consensus to address the long-standing grievances of the provinces. Any change in it requires a prior consensus among the federal units.

The PTI needs to come out with its policy regarding the Local Government system. Local problems differing from province to province and city to city can only be dealt with through an empowered local government system. Any hunch for emperor Jehagir’s Zanjir-e-Adl reflected in measures like Pakistan Citizens’ Portal might provide ego satisfaction but is unworkable in the complex 21st century societies.