Making space for the national interest in Pakistan’s dirty power politics

Making space for the national interest in Pakistan’s dirty power politics

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After being ousted from power through controversial proceedings in the National Assembly last month, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is holding huge public meetings in various cities to mount pressure on the new government to hold fresh elections without delay. On the other hand, the parties now in power want the present assemblies to complete their mandated term of five years before going for the exercise. In fact, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said this in so many words, and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb held a news conference to make the point clear.  

Although the ruling coalition’s changed stance is in conflict with its earlier demand for fresh elections, analysts think that immediate elections would not serve any useful purpose unless they are preceded by some important steps. In the absence of such measures, it is apprehended, that the post-election situation would not be different from the past. 

There are no two opinions that new elections will lead either to the PTI returning to power or the mantle going to the parties now at the helm. In the prevailing polarized situation, neither side is expected to accept the outcome, especially if it goes against them.  

This means the protests will continue as before, and elections will decide which party will be out on the streets. History bears testimony that in Pakistan no party has ever got a second consecutive term as a result of elections. The pattern will change only if there is some unpredictable development... or a miracle.  

In the larger national interest, the PTI should show large-heartedness, return to parliament and join hands with the ruling coalition to take certain measures before going in for the next elections. The gesture will change the political environment and be appreciated by all. 

First, they should evolve some mechanism to determine whether or not the party in power really honored its pre-election commitments to the people. In case the answer is no, the head of the previous government, all ministers, advisers, and others holding important positions, should be disqualified for the immediate polls and all salaries/ benefits pocketed by them during their incumbency should be recovered. 

This is certainly a novel idea not in practice anywhere in the democratic world. But it should be implemented in a poor country like Pakistan where those in power get unimaginable benefits and favors without doing much for the nation except lumbering it with more loans. 

Such a performance-audit arrangement would force any party in power to do more than its commitments. As a result, the people would benefit.
Then, electoral reforms should also be introduced to make the results of elections acceptable to all parties. The introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) should not be resisted by any party and some methodology should be evolved to obviate the possibility of the misuse of technology.

The PTI should give up the idea of continuing protests, and have all its grievances redressed through the courts. That is the peaceful way.

Ashraf Mumtaz

Polls should be absolutely free, fair, and transparent so that nobody can challenge their legitimacy on any grounds.  
Then there is an urgent need for expanding the scope of the charter of democracy.  

There was a time when the PPP and PML-N used all their energies to oust each other’s governments. Then realizing the futility of the exercise, they signed a Charter of Democracy back in 2006, which set new rules of the game for the future.  

Although both the parties did not adhere to the spirit of CoD in subsequent years, they have lately come to the conclusion that the document must be respected in letter and spirit. The matter also came under discussion at a recent meeting in London of a Bilawal-led PPP delegation with PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif. The two sides pledged anew that they would maintain the sanctity of the document and would improve it in the times ahead. 

It would be a commendable step if parties like the PTI also signed the CoD. The greater the number of signatories, the better for the country. Otherwise, parties outside its fold will be free to create any situation at any stage.   
Then, post-election litigation is also a chronic problem in Pakistan.  
Although the eligibility of all candidates is meticulously looked into before elections, floodgates of litigation open immediately after the exercise.  The candidacy of many of the contestants is challenged by their rivals. As a result, the elected ones have to spend a lot of time in the courts to negate allegations, causing embarrassment for them in their constituencies. 
This is the time for the parties to enact legislation to rule out post-election disputes. 

In the best national interest, the ruling coalition and the opposition should also sit together and identify all major problems facing the country, make a firm commitment to solving them on a priority basis, no matter which party gets the mandate as a result of elections. In fact, this should be the national agenda to be implemented by any party that comes to power.  
The PTI should give up the idea of continuing protests, and have all its grievances redressed through the courts. That is the peaceful way. Protests will only wreck the already fragile economy, adding to the problems of the nation.

— The writer is a senior and veteran journalist with a career spanning 40 years with major national and international newspapers.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view