By S. M. Hali
Societies pursue the political process to achieve their communal objectives. The political process may bring about the fruition of their aspirations or at times result in dissent as well as strife. The system of political governance differs in different countries in accordance with their own norms and mores. Pakistan has had a varied experience of military dictatorships interspersed with periods of democracy but the average Pakistani prefers the democratic system of governance.
The practice of the democratic model enables the people to use their sovereign right of electing their own representatives to govern them. Pakistan has a bicameral system of legislature, whose members are elected through the ballot box. The obligations of the elected representatives are to remain accountable to the people for their actions, as the system of
electoral democracy empowers the voters to take away the powers of elected members, if they fall short of popular aspirations and or grossly violate public views and fundamental ideology. The ground reality in Pakistan is that politicians usually pay only lip service to democracy. The political parties remember the voters only in the run up to the elections.
Once the parliamentarians have taken oath of office, the voters find themselves abandoned and neglected. To their horror, the voters find that the promises and undertakings of their elected representatives to resolve their social problems were mere
electoral gimmicks. After assuming power, the political elite enter into a rat race to acquire perks and pelf for themselves, leaving their constituencies in the lurch. Ironically, the same politicians repeat the process when the next general elections take place. They dupe the voters again and again. Social scientists opine that that feudal lords and commercial tycoons get elected over and over again and election campaigns are held as mere rituals, while the social problems remain unresolved.
The politicians exploit the impoverished state of their voters, making them mere pawns in their bids to re-enter the citadels of power. If one were to attend a session of either the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament or the Senate, the upper house, one gets horrified to find that most of the elected representatives hardly ever make any worthwhile contributions as they remain absent during active sessions of Parliament while the assembly gets adjourned due to lack of quorum.
The primary function of the houses of parliament is legislation. Unfortunately, the opportunity is either lost or abandoned because the elected representatives remain oblivious to the voters’ aspirations because of their pursuit of self aggrandizement. The elite group of elected members misuse the powers of their public offices to advance their personal gains earnestly seeking allotment of development and discretionary funds and through sycophancy to please the top party
leaders. The relatively low standards of education of the legislators makes them less liable to be cognizant of the social issues thus they are unable to participate actively in the parliamentary debates. They spend more time in resorting to rhetoric rather than healthy discourse.
The teachings and practices of the founder of the nation or even more contemporary leaders like Nelson Mandela are lost on our elected representatives. This pessimistic state of affairs must change. Parliamentarians have an obligation to seriously engage in the process of legislation and make efforts to resolve the problems faced by general public and the voters who have placed them in the Parliament. To fulfil their pledge to their constituency, the elected representatives need to make concerted efforts to improve their educational background and advance political philosophy. They need to engage in the process of legislation since it is a sacred cause and entails development of ethical dogma to work tirelessly to raise the quality of life of the people whom the elected members represent. They must make themselves as law-abiding citizens and must realize that
they are legally accountable for their actions. They have been empowered by the voters and hence the need to explore the possibility of meeting voters’ aspirations.
The elected representatives must take cognizance of the Latin proverb Vox populi, vox Dei (The voice of the people [is] the voice of God) (Sada-e khalq ko nikara-e Khuda samjho.) Politics is the process and so is the case of democracy in improving the system of governance. In democratic system significance of peopleis considered foremost. If elected representatives fail to attend the parliamentary sessions they cannot contribute towards bringing goodness to people and ultimately the system will get further corrupted. Parliament sessions must not be adjourned on the plea that the required quorum was not complete. If elected members are accountable through law then how can they afford to miss the parliamentary sessions? Collective sense of responsibility must be developed by all elected members of the National Assembly and Senate.
It is essential to install a system of monitoring the performance of all members of the Parliament to enable the voters to see the real visage of their elected representatives. It is recommended that more public be invited to attend the live sessions of Parliament and or online recordings be placed on the website. Parliamentarians must learn to feel the pride as Pakistani parliamentarians who are seriously engaged in the revered task of legislation. Petty temptations must be avoided for fear of avoiding damage to their image.
Corruption must be treated as a cancer that erodes society. We need not emulate western norms of democracy but also look east. The Indian “Aam Aadmi Ki Party (Common Man’s Party) and its anti corruption movement is a good example to follow.
Contrary to being dumped by their elected representatives, Pakistani voters have never let down their political leaders. It’s time for the Parliamentarians to reciprocate and allow devolution of power to take place empowering the people to arrange self governance. This entails holding of Local Bodies elections at priority. Parliamentarians must concentrate on legislation and power is delegated to local representatives. The attempt to delay and defer the local bodies’ elections under one plea or the other must stop and the people must be allowed to elect their representatives post haste.