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Monday, March 14, 2011

Needed: Democratic Infra structural Changes in Pakistan

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Yasmeen Ali

Since it’s inception in 1947, Pakistan has been riddled with the question of finding a system of governance tailor made for her needs. In the quest,Pakistan has had affairs with Parliamentary System, Presidential System, semi-Presidential System…..but has been unable so far, to determine what suits her best.

All shades of governments and rulers came and went. Democracy was replaced by Dictatorship and Dictatorship by Democracy. Governments formed, mostly in coalition by the winning party joining hands with one winning provincially to form a majority and set up government.

If we look at the 2008 General Elections results, it provides an enlightening picture. Pakistan Peoples Party won a total of 94 seats excluding 4 for minorities and 23 reserved for women, bringing the score up to 130 seats. Pakistan Muslim League- N bagged 95 seats, including 3 for minorities and 17 reserved for women. Pakistan Muslim League-Q secured 55 seats including 2 for minorities and 10 reserved for women. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) walked away with 26 seats, including 1 for minorities and 5 for women. Pakistan Muslim League-Fazlur Rehman Group nabbed 5 seats including one reserved for women. Pakistan Peoples Party –Sherpao Group took 1 seat as did the National Peoples Party. Baluchistan National Party-Awami, bagged a whooping 18 seats .

Thereby, a total of 226 seats were contested for and won by various parties in elections, 60 reserved for women, 10 reserved for minorities, bringing the total to 336. Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam (F) did not contest.

The picture becomes clear as the mist clears by figures quoted.

Collaboration and partnership of Muttahida Qaumi Movement becomes mandatory if the party bagging most votes needs to set up a government in Sindh. Once done,there are the constant tantrums thrown, and the provincial party, following in the footsteps of a film heroin, falls out with her lover, then is cajoled with sweets, flowers, and more expensive offerings. There are situations leading to a near complete break up of the love-hate relationship, only to realize, by both, near the brink ,how important the partnership is,managing to pull back and embrace- letting bygones be bygones- till the same cycle happens all over again!

Likewise, in Baluchistan, the active support of Baluchistan National Party (BNP) is mandatory to form government in province.

In Peshawar, it was Awami National Party that won 13 seats, but none from Hazara. To form government, support by ANP to the party forming the provincial government is needed.

What clearly emerges from the above scenario was that no single party is, across the board acceptable to the people of Pakistan. PPP emerges as the only party with representation in all four provinces securing half the seats in Sindh, one-third of seats in the Punjab, and roughly 30 per cent seats in NWFP and Baluchistan. PML-N, the second largest party is routed to Punjab only, with no representation in Sindh and Baluchistan, and, in NWFP, secured seats only in the non-Pushto speaking Hazara area. Ethnicity has started playing a big role in electing candidates-a dangerous trend.

The net result of this scenario is the following of an Appeasement Policy in dealing with the parties on board by the ruling party-whichever party is in the steering position, the 2008 General Elections results used as an example only. Instead of focusing on issues that should be focused on, time , energy, funds and resources are misdirected towards keeping the coalition partners happy and willing to keep government intact. Good governance suffers. It becomes relegated to the back burner. Insults are hurled at each other, accusations, counter accusations hold the day. Then miraculously, a ministry here, a promise there, and the sun comes out, bright and clear, till the next round!

The interests of these small pockets of seats won by local parties may,and do, differ widely on issues from that of the ruling party. In the long run, it may be the national interest that is sacrificed at the alter of Appeasement!

Who is to be blamed? The smaller parties? The ruling party? Or both?

I think it is the wrong system that is to be held responsible. So long there are smaller parties nibbling in the pie, demanding a slice, good governance will continue to suffer.

Pakistan must seriously look at changing over to a Two Party System rather than a Multi-Party System it presently is. This is something we have never tried. Something so basically, glaringly wrong in our whole approach to democracy, that that it has effected governance by whomsoever government has been in power.

Yes! It is time for those democratic infra structural changes in Pakistan.

(Yasmeen Ali is a lawyer based in Lahore. She also teaches in a University and moderates her blog Pakpotpourri2).

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