The answer to the question is a no.
The elections are not an end in itself, but means to an end. The end is, or should be good governance. The parties that have dominated the political scena are Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). It was not until 2013 that Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf emerged as the third largest party.
Dynastic rule (PML-N and PPP) is based on dynastic base. The mantle of leadership is passed down from one generation to the other. Whereas there can be an incumbent with brilliant political streak, there can be no guarantee that the ‘incoming’ dynastic leader has the capabilities required to take decisions a dynamic leader should take. Since the position is based on heredity, those surrounding the leaders are usually based on loyalty rather than on merit to govern. Policies usually take a back seat and there is less inclination to do well by their constituents. Some constituents may benefit owing largely to their patronage of the law maker.
The concept of dynastism does not rest only on agricultural holdings. The base has broadened to encompass industry and capital ownership. The candidates are powerful in their own right and wield it to enter into horse trading or switching sides.
In elections of 2018, where hopes of people of Pakistan were high that new faces on merit will replace the old guard, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan announced that ‘winning the elections was the top priority of his party and it was possible only through electable candidates.’ (June 23, 2018) It was old wine in a new bottle!
Previously one saw notable names contesting on two seats. If both were won, he/she retained one, having another party contender contest on the other. The party having won the seat in the first round, was more likely than not won it in second round.
A new phenomenon was introduced by Imran Khan. In 2018, he contested from five NA seats, and which to his credit he won. In August 2022 he announced to run on all nine-seats of NA falling vacant as a result of the National Assembly speaker accepting the resignations of his party’s lawmakers. In the recent by-polls for three National Assembly seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the turnout was low. Imran Khan, former Prime Minister of Pakistan contested on all three seats. This is a colossal waste of tax payers’ money. This repeated act of bowling himself poses a question: does not Khan trust anyone in his party to take a lead? Should the ECP allow one candidate to contest on innumerable seats?
There are other elements that developed nations include in a democracy. These include accountability. The representatives are accountable to the people. In Pakistan, there exists no base of a democratic groundwork. Above all, there is no accountability of those in power. Till they are in power. The tales of misdemeanor, corruption and ill-gotten gains usually start pouring out once that government is out of power.
How can then, we, the people of Pakistan exercise power over our representatives that we send to assembly? Until this is addressed, it will continue as a vicious cycle. Putting on board any Tutti Frutti concoction will never deliver.
‘None of the above’ option: NOTA on ballot paper. Thereby rejecting all contesting candidates in a constituency. This is in line with the core spirit of democracy. If the voter is allowed the chance of rejecting all-it offers him a broader base than to choose between the Devil and the Black Sea. Otherwise, people will be refraining from voting because they do not want to vote for the same ‘electable.’ In order for NOTA to have real-time value, it must have electoral value. If a 50% casting vote in any given constituency, cast vote to NOTA, those contenting must have their security confiscated and banned for contesting for 8 years.
Therefore, a logical follow-up to this scenario should be to call for a by-election with fresh candidates in the above given scenario. This will make contestants more answerable to the people they represent. In the final analysis let the people decide whom to vote for. That is the essence of democracy. This should also mean they cannot be appointed as advisors and chairpersons of organizations. Unless leaders are made answerable, it is the case of rotten tomatoes.
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets at @yasmeen_9
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