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Reforms needed to create a clean, honest political system

The real authority to command respect of people and society is moral authority. History tells us that people did not have temporal power but they ruled the hearts and minds of people because of the strength of their character. Such characters are also among common worldly people – human rights activists, artists, poets, writers, educationists and scientists. Unfortunately, in our society, politicians claim that it is their divine right to rule. They seem to be of the considered view that once got elected, they are above the law. They do not consider themselves answerable to any court of law and think that after getting elected they have the right to indulge in loot and plunder and only elections constitute their accountability. They seem to be of the view that nobody should question them why their assets do not match their known sources of income. This is applicable to majority of the politicians, whether they are in government or in the opposition. Without moral authority, any political leader cannot be allowed to rule or have any say in the affairs of the State or people. To create a clean and honest political system we need to have some basic reforms. In this article, an effort is being made to suggest some fundamental changes to improve our system, without which we cannot evolve a just and fair political and social order.

What about adding the following to the oath of public representatives starting from a city councillor to the President of Pakistan?

“From today on, me and my family will only attend to government schools and government hospitals located in my constituency only. I will not request treatment of myself or my family members abroad on the state expense. Further, me and my immediate family will not do any business and disassociate myself/us from my/our business till I participate in politics. My family means, my spouse, my children and grandchildren too.”

When the people representing elite/ruling class do not have to educate their children in government schools and visit government hospitals for treatment, how will the standards of education of government schools health facilities in government hospitals improve? If politicians are allowed to do business, they would continue to earn undue profits through their political influence, depriving country’s business community of a level playing field.

As majority of politicians is very rich, they should be paid only nominal salaries and allowances, which are necessary to enable them to travel between their hometowns and Islamabad and provincial capitals to attend sessions of Parliament/provincial assemblies and committee meetings. Already a lot of state expenditure is incurred on furnished apartments in parliament lodges and food at assembly cafeterias at extremely subsidized rates. Chairpersons of parliamentary committees are provided official cars and staff paid from the public exchequer.

Membership of Parliament/Assembly is a very prestigious position, but many parliamentarians do not take the Parliament/Assembly sessions/business seriously. They want to avail all perks and privileges admissible to elected representatives, but without performing their duties efficiently and diligently towards the electorate whom they claim to represent. They hardly attend sessions or merely mark their attendance, just to receive their allowance and leave the Parliament or Assembly. Majority of them hardly participate in the business of the Parliament. It is therefore, proposed that if a parliamentarian remains absent from the Parliament for more than thirty days during a parliamentary year, except on very valid medical grounds, or if a member does not actively participate during a parliamentary year, or after marking his presence, leaves the Parliament before the session conclusion more than two times during a session, his membership should be revoked and bye-election should be held in his constituency in which his participation as a candidate is not allowed.

Unfortunately, during the last 35 years or so, in Pakistan politics has become the most profitable business, which needs to be stopped. They are allocated development funds out of PSDP, apparently for development of their constituencies, but these are actually used for establishing their own positions in their constituencies, resulting in phenomenal increase in their personal assets. Most of these funds are used in the name of development work, the contracts of which are awarded to their relatives or contractors personally close to them. These elected representatives also interfere in recruitment and posting/transfer of government servants and many of them reportedly manage to get lucrative assignments for their confidants who are involved in corrupt practices. All these beneficiaries watch and look after personal interests of their benefactors. Since the yield from investment in politics is substantial, “the investors” directly and indirectly increase their investment, resulting in a situation where politics becomes a very expensive affair and ‘election expense’ has gone out of reach of a common political worker, due to which politics has become a hobby/business of elite class used for taking care of its personal interests. Due to this state of affairs, common man has lost hope in this system.

Ours is a sham democracy and doesn’t serve the purpose of equal opportunities, egalitarianism and justice for common man. The present system is not government of the people by the people for the people.

This writer doesn’t ask for any unconstitutional intervention; he’s just suggesting certain amendments in the constitution to impose certain restrictions on politicians as there are certain restrictions on civil servants. In our system the elected representatives, consider that they have right to indulge in corruption and loot national resources. They consider themselves above the law. Due to systemic flaws, majority of them hardly get 15 to 20 percent votes and yet claim to be the representatives of the majority. There should be a system in place, where getting 51% votes of Total Votes (not only casted votes) should be a must to win a seat. A law needs to be passed, making casting of votes mandatory by every voter.

The elected representatives should only concentrate on legislation work; they should not be given any development funds, nor are they allowed any say in recruitment or posting/transfer of government servants.

If these reforms are followed and politics is not allowed to be used as a business, only committed political workers will join politics to serve the people.

Shahid Hussain Asad, "Reforms needed to create a clean, honest political system," Business Recorder. 2018-06-16.
Keywords: Rights activists , Human rights , Political leader , Basic reforms , Parliamentary committees , National resources , Session conclusion , Democracy , PSDP