Mid-term elec­tions: is it the an­swer?

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - A Q Khan Kundi

Mid-term elec­tions or an in­terim govern­ment are not the so­lu­tion. The fix­ing of the sys­tem will start from an in­di­vid­ual who de­cides that he will not al­low cor­rup­tion or en­gage in cor­rupt prac­tices. We have to be­come a nation from a chaotic crowd to be able to gain the dig­nity and sovereignty that we so much crave for

It seems democ­racy is feel­ing the heat from cit­i­zens around the world. Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Ber­lus­coni barely won a vote of con­fi­dence. French Pres­i­dent Sarkozy is still re­cov­er­ing from al­le­ga­tions of bribery on the sale of sub­marines to Pak­istan. Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Cameron faced vi­o­lent stu­dent protests af­ter the in­crease in the tu­ition fees. US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, a Demo­crat, lost con­gres­sional ma­jor­ity to the Repub­li­can Party. The Ir­ish govern­ment is fac­ing a loss of man­date be­cause of the eco­nomic cri­sis.

For es­tab­lished democ­ra­cies in the west, change in pub­lic opin­ion is not a new thing. Over the course of two cen­turies, they have de­vel­oped checks and bal­ances be­tween var­i­ous state in­sti­tu­tions that may get rocked in tur­bu­lent times but sur­vive and con­tinue in the end. In Pak­istan, on the other hand, democ­racy has al­ways been on a shaky ground. In its 63 year's his­tory of state­hood, in­ter­mit­tent elected gov­ern­ments have been dis­solved fre­quently by mil­i­tary rulers thereby ham­per­ing the devel­op­ment of a demo­cratic tra­di­tion, which is the bedrock of sta­ble in­sti­tu­tions. Time and again, elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives proved too weak to steer the demo­cratic ship in storms cre­ated by vested in­ter­ests and non-demo­cratic forces. The most im­por­tant rea­sons for un­sta­ble demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions in Pak­istan are un­demo­cratic par­ties, un­skilled politi­cians, al­lure of the es­tab­lish­ment to find part­ners in crime, too many par­ties in par­lia­ment re­duc­ing the na­tional de­bate into small re­gional in­ter­ests and masses that do not un­der­stand the power of their vote.

Since the for­ma­tion of the Pak­istan Peo­ple's Party (PPP) govern­ment af­ter the 2008 elec­tions, there have been many oc­ca­sions when it seemed that it will not be able to sur­vive but it did. In the lat­est cri­sis, Jamiat Ulema-e-Is­lam-Fazl ( JUI-F) an­nounced part­ing ways with the coali­tion govern­ment and de­cided to sit on the op­po­si­tion benches, while the Mut­tahida Qaumi Move­ment (MQM) re­signed from two min­istries at the Cen­tre. As soon as this was an­nounced, the mul­ti­tude of ru­mour­mon­gers and con­spir­acy the­o­rists started con­coct­ing all kinds of sce­nar­ios to emerge from this. The most talked about are two, i.e. an in­terim govern­ment of tech­nocrats that would sta­bilise the coun­try be­fore the next elec­tions in 2013 or that mid-term elec­tions should be held for a fresh man­date.

Mid-term elec­tions will just be a game of mu­si­cal chairs be­tween the ex­ist­ing cadres of lead­ers but will cost the nation a lot of money and loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity in the econ­omy. There are only two years left in the term of the cur­rent govern­ment, which is not a long time to wait. Dur­ing this time, the lo­cal bod­ies' elec­tions should be held so that an in­sti­tu­tion for fu­ture lead­ers is re­in­stated. These elec­tions will be a lit­mus test of the nation's choice for the next gov- ern­ment in the prov­ince and Cen­tre.

But the real ques­tion is the struc­ture of our govern­ment and how var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions should be­have to cre­ate a sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment for the nation to thrive. Bu­reau­crats run the real govern­ment; a min­is­ter is sup­posed to pro­vide a pol­icy di­rec­tion based on the rul­ing party's ide­ol­ogy. It is never a good idea that a min­is­ter gets in­volved in ac­tual, op­er­a­tional de­ci­sion­mak­ing, which be­comes a breed­ing ground for cor­rup­tion and crony­ism. It un­der­mines the author­ity of the bu­reau­crats and dam­ages merit by ap­point­ment of choice can­di­dates to fa­cil­i­tate cor­rupt trans­ac­tions.

The mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment has con­trolled the strings of govern­ment di­rectly or in­di­rectly through­out the his­tory of Pak­istan. A sol­dier or po­lice­man with­out le­gal author­ity is no dif­fer­ent from a crim­i­nal. When a gen­eral cap­tures power from civil­ian rulers, he is un­der­cut­ting his moral author­ity thereby dam­ag­ing the in­sti­tu­tion that is held in high es­teem by the nation. The mil­i­tary to­day does not en­joy the same moral ground in Pak­istan that it used to just 20 years ago. Peo­ple have re­alised that the mil­i­tary rulers have done more dam­age than the com­bined dam­age of all politi­cians.

(The writer is the pres­i­dent of the Pak­istan Cham­ber of Com­merce-USA.)

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