Elected Representatives Set Aside the Public Mandate
Although democracy has displayed its success in the west, yet it has proved to be fruitless in Pakistan. Therefore, it is generally said that “any instrument can be misused.”
Pakistan’s politicians have always claimed that they nourish democratic ideals, but, we could not establish this system on a strong footing due to irresponsible approach of our political entities. Hence, democracy remains weak, working in uncertainty.
Political thinkers opine that politics is the process through which communities pursue collective goals and resolve communal issues leading to disagreement and socio-political conflicts. Civilized societies premeditate for their preferred governmental system, endorsing ideological foundations of nation.
No doubt, Pakistan’s favourite system of governance is democratic system as against the rigid schemes of authoritarian rule. By using their legitimate right of vote, people of Pakistan participate in political process of elections, and elect their own representatives to govern them. Thus, they give mandate by authorizing the elected members to hold public offices and make legitimate decisions to run the affairs of state. And, the elected representatives remain accountable for their actions, while, the system of electoral democracy also empowers the voters to take away the powers of the elected members, if they fall short of popular aspirations— grossly violate public mandate or fundamental ideology.
Regrettably, voters, after having elected their representatives, virtually become subjects of powerful elite who tend to shatter all hopes of voters by neglecting their social problems, financial difficulties and psychological distress. Promises made during election campaign are quickly forgotten, while perks of public offices are fully enjoyed. Irony of the fate is that same elite group gets elected over and over again and election campaigns are held as rituals. Unfortunately, voters, due to their extreme poverty and poignant standing lack social influence and political power, becoming trading pawns in the hands of politicians who regard elections as windows of business opening to plunder national wealth through all possible means.
Most of the elected representatives in National Assembly and Senate hardly make any worthwhile contribution, as they remain absent during active sessions of the Parliament. Therefore, sessions of the lower and upper houses are adjourned due to lack of quorum, and the process of essentially required legislation remains blank and weary. Resultantly, the voters’ aspirations turn into hopeless ordeal, dejection and despondency.
It is mentionable that various mal-practices such as horse-trading, nepotism, bribery, illegal obligations and other forms of corruption are very common among our politicians. In fact, the elite group of elected members uses powers of their public offices to advance their personal interests including engagement in politics of THANA and KUCHHERY (Police and Court), earnestly seeking allotment of development and discretion funds and timely steps of sycophancy to please the top party leaders. Poor educational background makes them inactive and soundless during debate sessions to approve or reject key issues requiring parliamentary endorsement. They also remain oblivious of world politics and philosophical aspirations of great leaders like Nelson Mandela. Thus, they promote their personal interests, and show total callousness towards torment of their voters.
In order to divert the attention of general masses from real problems, elected politicians and opposition leaders always raise allegations and counter-allegations against each other, while manipulating various issues. In these terms, without grasping realities, our politicians have exploited every issue like the Memogate case, Mehrangate verdict, NRO scandal, missing persons’ case and issue of dialogue or military operation against the Taliban, not only to disrepute country’s key security intuitions, but also against each other so as to misguide the common men to increase their voting lists.
Particularly, on our media, most of the TV channels conduct controversial debate between politicians and commentators by exploiting every issue without bothering for the integrity of the country.
Fragile democracy in Pakistan is also due to some other factors. In this respect, a blind dedication to ones own race, tribe, creed and community creates hatred in one group against the other, which ends in violence. Regional and provincial political leaders also manipulate these disparities which have hindered the smooth working of democracy.
Concentration of wealth in few hands has created a privileged class of landowners and industrialists who contest elections winning the same against each other again and again. By dominating the political parties, they have dominated the politics of the country and have always sacrificed national interests for their personal gains. During the election campaign, they employ all means, fair or foul to defeat their opponents and capture political power. They mislead the general masses through, false propaganda and exaggerated speeches.
It is our misfortune that our political parties have worked on undemocratic principles like hostility for the sake of hostility, formation of alliances and counter-alliances to win the elections. Much time is wasted in retaliation against the previous government instead of fulfilling the promises, made with the voters during election campaign. So, they forget the real aim of public mandate by resolving the economic and social problems of the masses. In this regard, they also misguide the general masses by forming extreme opinion among them towards their opponents. Therefore, people who support these political leaders as a symbol of success of their favourite parties, feel pleasure at the failure of their rival parties. Past experience displays that very soon an alliance of different parties is formed to launch a mass movement to topple the government, which ultimately leads to military rule in the country.
At this critical juncture, Pakistan is facing multi-faceted crises such as soaring prices, energy-shortage, unemployment, crimes, lack of health facilities etc. Besides, the country has perennially been facing subversive activities in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi where country’s security forces and law-enforcing agencies are coping with the militants. In this context, our politicians and media analysts opine as to what the people want, but conceal as to what people actually need?
It is the right hour that by taking cognizance of the multiple crises of Pakistan, our Parliamentarians must think that they have an obligation to seriously engage in the process of legislation and must make efforts to resolve the problems faced by general public or voters. To fulfil such a pledge, they need to improve educational background and advance political philosophy by following the models of leaders like Nelson Mandela.
They must know that the process of legislation and public mandate is a sacred cause, which entails development of ethical dogma to work tirelessly in order to bring goodness to people whom the elected members represent.
Our elected members must make themselves as law-abiding citizens and must realize that they are legally accountable for their actions. They have been empowered by the voters; hence, they need to fulfil voters’ aspirations and promises, made during the election campaign.
Pakistan’s elected political leaders must be aware that real aim of the democratic system is to improve the system of governance, as in the system, significance of people is considered foremost priority. If elected representatives fail to attend the parliament sessions, they cannot contribute in bringing goodness to people and ultimately the system will get further corrupted, resulting into further poor governance. For the purpose, collective sense of responsibility must be developed by all elected members of the National Assembly and the Senate. A system of monitoring performance of all parliamentarians must be evolved to enable the voters to see the reality. Media must suggest that more public be invited to attend the live sessions of the Parliament, and online recordings be placed on the website.
As Pakistani Parliamentarians who are seriously engaged in revered task of legislation and petty temptations, must avoid the same for fear damaging their image.
Especially, corruption must be treated as the dangerous enemy and good models provided by good leaders be followed. In this connection, Indian AAM AADMI KI PARTY (Common Man’s Party) and their anti-corruption movement is a case in point.
While, Pakistani voters have never failed the political leaders, now it is time for the members of the National Assembly and the Senate to reciprocate, and allow devolution of power to take place, empowering the people to arrange self-governance. This entails holding of Local Bodies elections at priority. Besides, Parliamentarians must concentrate on legislation, while delegating the power to local representatives.
Returning to our main discussion, the elected representatives who set aside the public mandate through shrewd politics and use the same for their personal interests must abandon this mal-practice.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations