This is not the first time in the country’s chequered democratic history that a clearly man-made fiasco did not lead to any cabinet resignations while senior bureaucrats, handpicked by no less the cabinet members themselves, were suspended. Moreover, Pakistan State Oil (PSO) DMD also met with a similar fate. This continuing trend is extremely unfortunate as it is a tacit acceptance by the federal cabinet that either its members are simply showpieces with no powers to effectively manage their own ministries; or else they are unwilling to accept responsibility in the event of a crisis and resort to lying to their party leader as well as the general public with the objective of keeping their portfolio. Neither situation generates respect or indeed confidence.
Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution in 2014 (sans the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, which was protesting at D-Chowk at the time) pledging to uphold the supremacy of democratic institutions and stressed that the survival, progress and stability of the country is linked with democracy. Few would argue against the content of the resolution because democracy succinctly defined is of the people, for the people and by the people. Be that as it may, Pakistani politicians’ focus on general elections as the only pillar of democracy has relevance given long periods in our history of dictatorships by military adventurers; however disturbingly this sole focus on one aspect of democracy has allowed our democratically-elected governments to operate as dictatorially in power as a military adventurer – a fact which accounts for governance comparisons between a civilian prime minister and a military usurper.
Democracy, our politicians in general and the cabinet members in particular, must surely know is not only about holding free and fair general elections and allowing the party that won a majority of seats to form a government – whether independently or through a coalition. Democracy as a system of government must contain elements of fairness, transparency and accountability after an election is over – an objective that would remain a challenge without rule of law with respect to justice in a court of law as well as in the country’s taxation system equally applicable to all citizens.
The list of non-democratic decisions/actions in order to our recent history is mind-boggling and more representative of a dictatorship than democracy: (i) the ongoing petrol crisis with three federal ministers enjoying varying political clout (depending not on their performance but on their closeness to the Prime Minister) accusing each other while absolving themselves of all blame leading to four bureaucrats being made the scapegoats that these ministers themselves handpicked; (ii) the 16th June, 2014 Model Town tragedy that led to Pakistan Awami Tehreek and PTI dharna at D-Chowk against the initial resistance by the provincial government to register a First Information Report (FIR) filed by the victims. In this instance, the casualty was Law Minister Sanaullah, yet there is little evidence to support that he no longer exercises the same political clout as when he was the Law Minister; (iii) tens of hundreds of appointments have been made for decades on the basis of nepotism with no consideration to merit with the appointment of Tauqir Sadiq having an FA certificate as chairman of Ogra during Gilani’s premiership as the ultimate in a flawed appointment; (iv) no proactive attempt by the Zardari-led government or the Sharif administration to investigate cases of corruption/fraud against parliamentarians as part of the policy of reconciliation that is generally defined as different laws applying to the influential as opposed to the general public; (v) Thar children continue to lose battle of their life to lack of nourishment; (vi) the much touted 18th Constitutional Amendment seeking to strengthen the hold of the party leader on his party members allowing him to dismiss any member if he fails to toe the line, which would lead to a bye-election on the vacated seat; and last but not least (vii) there is lack of democracy within political parties, excepting the Jamaat-i-Islami, which accounts for little change in any national party’s leadership. Even in PTI, a party that claims to be democratic shunning family politics till now, there are grumblings that the party chairman Imran Khan has a dictatorial outlook.
To conclude, the cabinet led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is widely believed to be responsible for the petrol crisis. Taking notice of a crisis, chairing meetings to resolve the crisis and refusing to allow political loyalists to pay a price for incompetence is eroding the Prime Minister’s political base every day. While Nawaz Sharif is known for rarely listening to advice or indeed learning lessons from the past he must begin to name, shame and fire ministers for failing to deliver if he wants to remain politically relevant.
Oct 26, 2016 0
Special coverage on China's Two Party Sessions by The Daily Mail - People's Daily