Col­lec­tiv­i­ties and gov­er­nance

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - An­war Syed

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties are in the busi­ness of con­test­ing elec­tions. They hope to form a govern­ment or be­come part­ners in one that an­other party or coali­tion has formed. Party lead­ers need an in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween them­selves and the vot­ers, and that role is per­formed by the party work­ers

We of­ten hear po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors say that the peo­ple will do this, that, or the other. It is said also that par­lia­ment will take such and such mea­sures. These state­ments are more mis­lead­ing than ac­cu­rate. The peo­ple as such, when per­suaded to act, can de­stroy an ex­ist­ing ar­range­ment of af­fairs but they do not build any­thing to re­place it. They may be­come in­stru­ments of change when they are led by a party and its leader who has a vi­sion and a plan for cre­at­ing a new or­der.

Par­lia­ment in Pak­istan is sov­er­eign. It is the gov­ern­ing body that makes laws which say what a cit­i­zen may or may not do in in­ter­act­ing with oth­ers. Thus, it gives sub­stance to the no­tion of a good so­ci­ety. The ex­ec­u­tive is a com­mit­tee of its own mem­bers des­ig­nated to im­ple­ment the laws it has made. This com­mit­tee, known as a cabi­net, con­sists of a prime min­is­ter and his as­so­ci­ates. It is an­swer­able to its par­ent - par­lia­ment - for the ad­e­quacy if its con­duct. It serves dur­ing par­lia­ment's plea­sure and may be dis­charged if it does not meet the lat­ter's ex­pec­ta­tions.

Cu­ri­ously, par­lia­ment is a sov­er­eign that can­not act on its own vo­li­tion. It needs some­body to hold its hand and guide it to where it is to go. That some­body is the head of the ex­ec­u­tive, namely, the prime min­is­ter. He and his col­leagues are the ones who cre­ate its busi­ness. It is note­wor­thy that the prime min­is­ter is the coun­try's vir­tual ruler. He can dis­miss a min­is­ter in his cabi­net if he does not ap­prove of the lat­ter's per­for­mance. He can dis­solve par­lia­ment and call for new elec­tions.

It fol­lows from the above that nei­ther of these col­lec­tiv­i­ties can do any­thing con­struc­tive by it­self. The peo­ple can de­stroy but not build un­less moved to ac­tion by a leader. Par­lia­ment needs a man­ager who will put it to work and give it a di­rec­tion. An­other sim­i­lar­ity be­tween the peo­ple and par­lia­ment may be noted. Nei­ther of them takes its ex­is­tence and func­tion se­ri­ously. Only about 40 per­cent of the el­i­gi­ble vot­ers in Pak­istan turn out to cast their bal­lots on polling day. Mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly come ev­ery day that it is in ses­sion, sign in, sit in the House for a few min­utes, and then go out to chat with col­leagues and friends in the lob­bies or the cafe­te­ria. Some of those who re­main in the House have been found snor­ing in­stead of lis­ten­ing to the pre­sen­ta­tion be­ing made.

We may now turn to an­other col­lec­tiv­ity in the sys­tem of gov­er­nance, namely, the po­lit­i­cal party. Po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Pak­istan have sev­eral com­mon­al­i­ties in terms both of their of­fi­cially ad­ver­tised or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­tures and op­er­a­tional styles. They all have of­fices and or­gans such as pres­i­dent/chair­man, gen­eral sec­re­tary, trea­surer, and a cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. Many of them, es­pe­cially those at the pro­vin­cial and lo­cal lev­els, are ap­pointed by the top party lead­er­ship. None of them, ex­cept the Ja­maat-e-Is­lami, main­tains up­dated lists of party mem­bers who may vote in the elec­tions at the ward or mo­halla level. There is an el­e­ment of hered­i­tary suc­ces­sion in the mak­ing of top party lead­ers. It goes some­thing like this: PPP: Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto, Be­nazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zar­dari and Bi­lawal; PML-N: Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza and Ab­bas (wait­ing in line); PML-Q: Chaudhry Shu­jaat Hus­sain and his cousin Per­vaiz Elahi; ANP: Ab­dul Ghaf­far Khan (Bacha Khan), Ab­dul Wali Khan, As­fand­yar Wali Khan; JUI: Maulana Mufti Mah­mud and his son Maulana Fa­zlur Rehman. Altaf Hus­sain has been the chief of the MQM since the day it be­gan its ca­reer and he has no ap­par­ent in­ten­tion of re­tir­ing.

It is hard to say to what ex­tent the in­ter­nal man­age­ment of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Pak­istan is demo­cratic. Mr Asif Ali Zar­dari, the PPP's co-chair­man, does pe­ri­od­i­cally call meet­ings of his cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. It may be as­sumed that the items he brings up are dis­cussed but it is un­likely that the is­sue in dis­cus­sion is put to a vote. The greater like­li­hood is that he has the fi­nal say and no mem­ber tells him that he is wrong. The same may be true of Mr Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Shu­jaat Hus­sain in the PML-N and PML-Q re­spec­tively. Haji Bashir Bilour in the ANP ap­pears to be As­fand­yar Wali Khan's co-equal. I un­der­stand that mat­ters are dis­cussed in the MQM's co­or­di­na­tion com­mit­tee, but its mem­bers and other party no­ta­bles give Altaf Hus­sain un­ques­tion­ing obe­di­ence.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties are in the busi­ness of con­test­ing elec­tions. They hope to form a govern­ment or be­come part­ners in one that an­other party or coali­tion has formed. Party lead­ers need an in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween them­selves and the vot­ers, and that role is per­formed by the party work­ers. They are party loy­al­ists, and in some cases the party's em­ploy­ees, who con­vey its mes­sage to the folks in their area of res­i­dence. They re­cruit per­sons as party mem­bers, col­lect funds, or­gan­ise party meet­ings and as­sem­ble au­di­ences for their lead­ers to ad­dress. If they be­long to the party in power, they may be re­warded with jobs. The jobs in ques­tion are es­sen­tially su­per­flu­ous po­si­tions, in­volv­ing no real work to be done. This prac­tice will some­times cre­ate ugly and morally rep­re­hen­si­ble sit­u­a­tions for the govern­ment that re­sorts to it.

The PPP has had an in­ter­est­ing ca­reer in this coun­try's pol­i­tics. Founded in De­cem­ber 1967, it func­tioned as the rul­ing party for about five years be­tween 1972 and 1977.

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