The Prime Minister has written a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly to take steps for making electoral reforms. It is a step in the aftermath of recent Senate elections wherein political parties played games in violation of the law and the Constitution-knowing no bounds to out-manoeuvre their political rivals. Money, promises, principles and democracy, all were on sale. Poor taxpayers ask: what do they get out of this drama in the name of democracy? Election Commission of Pakistan, a constitutional body, helplessly looks on at the ugly political bargains. Despite claims through press statements ECP has disappointed people by failing to discharge its constitutional duty. Ensuing litigation will again waste precious public’s court time.
Before any electoral reforms are undertaken it needs to be ascertained where lies the problem in the system. Is there a problem with the players in the political arena or the laws and the Constitution have some defects? Prescriptions are usually suggested without looking at the malady. Headache is treated with a medicine for stomach pain. The Senate Elections showed that problem was not with the system but with the people who run it. Those who voted against their conscience or party command betrayed their oaths and then disguised or were protected and their identity remains a mystery for the public. They were certainly ‘qualified’ under Articles 62 of the Constitution as “truthful and trustworthy’ and from them a vote of confidence was obtained a few days later. The system stands hugely discredited and rocked to the bottom. Surprisingly, almost same laws and similar provisions in other constitutions are perfectly working around the world and true democracy flourishes.
Real reforms that would create interest, stakes and ownership for all in the system have remained an elusive dream. The Constitution that reflects aspirations and assures hopes is in a language which is not understood by millions. It contains provisions that protect empowered classes like single member electoral constituency which is inherited by men and families in power. This sacred parchment has apparently failed to protect itself against its desecrations, violations and mutilations by those who swear an allegiance to it, avow its upholding and promise its defence. It helplessly watches the flight of political birds that land in the political swamps and cling on to power by all means. These permanent establishmentarians continue to occupy power corridors, generation after generation, while hundreds of millions clamour in pain and suffering. Unless the little man, as Churchill would call him, is not truly freed and empowered, this drama at the political stage will continue producing painful tragedies only changing faces during the intervals without ever changing the plot.
The Election Act, 2017 soon led to a controversy over the declaration form and invited the Faizabad sit-in by a religious zealot. This Act failed to address chronic problems in the electoral process pointed out in the Workers Party case. Misgivings about the election results continued that led to the formation of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) whose main stakeholders are Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. They are agitating their grievances as their political vantage, fortunes and positions got mitigated thereafter.
There are now three main players in the arena. An ageing Imran Khan who has no political heirs. He is one-man party. The day he is out of power and favour he is destined to be lone, for all those around him, with very little exception, are seasonal political birds, only staying with him until political waters are still. Unlike others, Khan will not leave behind any legacy. If he fails he will be burying hopes of millions who voted for him. He needs to come to an immediate rescue of the crying masses fighting for their survival underneath unbearable price hikes. He is certainly mistaken if he believes that he can remain in power with the help of mighty establishment. It would not only put a question-mark on his political credentials but will also expose un-democrat in him for in a real democracy the source of power are the people only and none else. Those who voted for him believed in the hopes of a real change and relief but alas! It has so far turned out to be a nightmare and continuation of the status quo he promised to change.
Maryam and Bilawal are two other rising stars on the political firmament. Both of them aspire to rule this nation. They are bitter in their tones and aggressive in their postures. Politics demands suffering and ideals require sacrifices. Bilawal lost his mother in the political battlefield and his mother’s father at the judicial altar. He inherited a political party but under a custodian whose claims to fame are not very laudable. He believes in naked power and his cronies enchant disgusting slogans over his political moves. Political workers all across Pakistan, particularly in Sindh and Punjab, still remember an enchanting slogan of his grandfather ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ and in whose name the throne of Sindh and its resources are under their control. Since his mother’s death he has been treated like a prince and his father has used this position to perpetuate his political power and fortunes. Bilawal’s charm and political stock is keeping them in power in Sindh. But their rule has not changed the lots of the clamouring tens of millions. Fake bank accounts, increasing sugar mills, land holdings and real estate businesses constitute a lingering source of embarrassment. He is improving his political skills tremendously but unexplained wealth here and abroad will always prove an Achilles’ heel for him. Being a de facto ruler of Sindh, Bilawal could improve his administrative skills but his performance in Sindh shows that the political struggle he envisages is meant for self-advantage and perpetuation in power. Poor masses are his least concern. Perhaps in the political arena survival is only of the fittest in monetary terms. A real democrat actually believing in the revenge through democracy for people has yet to appear on the scene.
Maryam Nawaz is now unquestionably the leader of PML (N). She has successfully articulated a narrative that challenges the rotten system. With her taunting tones, pungent wit and threatening postures she has been able to scare many. Her argument for rule of law, weight for vote and real democracy are appealing to her supporters. Her belligerence has been fired up mainly due to the fall from a great vantage she and her family had been for over three decades. She has been emboldened by the failure of the government’s narrative of accountability which has not been able to recover a penny out of the alleged billions. The Sharifs have had no political rivals in the Punjab as they outweighed landed classes and small time political-business families with help of the same establishment they oppose now. After her father’s removal from power she has been able to gather around her a young lot of loyal followers who are the direct beneficiaries of political fortunes in the form of elected offices and are willing to stand by her through thick and thin. The same cynical question is: Is she willing to take this fight to its logical end and ready to make a sacrifice or is this whole struggle meant to save the family’s fortunes and power as alleged by her opponents? Only time will tell prove it.
No amendment in the Constitution or changes in law can establish true democracy, rule of law and justice until political classes mend their ways and stop using state resources and power to their self-advantage and self-enrichment. A single amendment, permanently prohibiting holding of assets in any form by the elected public office holders will purge our politics from parasites and the corrupt. Umar ibne Khattab (RA) stopped the first Caliph Abu Bakr (RA) from running his cloth business after becoming the CaliphMuhammad Waqar Rana, "Political arena," Business Recorder. 2021-03-23.
Keywords: Political science , National Assembly , Electoral reforms , Election commission , Election act , Maryam Nawaz , Bilawal Bhutto Zardari , PDM , ECP