Pakistani political drama is nothing short of a dark comedy. On one side is a government that makes decisions only to test waters, annoy its opponents and withdraw them to enhance its victimhood credentials at the slightest signs of opposition. Then, there is an opposition that will do anything to avoid being called a friendly opposition. And then there is Imran Khan’s party, which never tires of name-calling. Consider Imran Khan himself, who calls the newly-elected prime minister, ‘Raja Rental’. The rank and file of a party may do as it pleases but imagine a party leader and prime ministerial candidate using that kind of language.
Cynics then say that the parliamentary opposition is the opposition in exile. The opposition in residence is the country’s judiciary, media and at times even the deep state. Finally, there are religious political parties known only to worsen a national crisis. And with all these ingredients, the end result is pretty nasty. It gives us a country whose ruling elite can do nothing right.
Now that the elections or a total collapse of the system appear just round the corner, is it advisable to make amends and change things in a manner that ensures that democracy or whatever passes for it does something to deliver, too?
Can we begin with the political parties? The first thing the political parties can do is give up pretence and acknowledge the fact that they have done no homework on anything. If the parties start working on their policy options now, by the next elections they might be able to give us something useful. Then there is the matter of a shadow government. Unfortunately, it is a golden tradition about which no political party seems serious for obvious political reasons. If that cannot be done, at least the three major groups can help the country by forming research institutes within. A properly staffed research institute will not only give a coherent policy direction to each party but also ensure that it does not complicate the future cabinet formation process for them.
The best option will be to start working on a few important policy matters, namely, the economy, the fight against terrorism, foreign policy, education and health. If these parties work out elaborate plans on these important areas they will be better prepared to rule the country after elections. However, if they continue to drag their feet as they have always done, they will achieve nothing substantial and will end up making bigger fools of themselves than the current lot.
Finally, now that we have an independent and credible chief election commissioner, it is time to improve upon whatever we have recently been given in the name of electoral code of conduct. There are some very serious campaign finance questions that need to be answered and the new code does not even come close to answering them. It is imperative that the political parties sit together, deliberate on these issues and try to find solutions.
These are a few important things that have to be done in order to change the way the country is run. If this cannot be done, there is no sense in pretending that the country is a democracy because in such abysmal absence of preparedness, countries are usually run on autopilot, which means the country’s bureaucracy, judiciary and the deep state will continue to steer it towards bigger disasters than we are currently facing.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2012.
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