ELECTORAL AND GOVERNANCE REFORM IN PAKISTAN

Pakistan is beset by a perverted and sham form of so called democracy.

This version of sham democracy is actually an existential threat and allows the same old decrepit, discredited, deviants and corrupt jokers wearing different party colors back in power. If it’s not NS then its Terry Thomas! Or if not Rehman Malik, then that other masterpiece Rana Sanaullah and their likes.  All with nothing but their own personal self-interests, and the nation be damned!!.
And this is how it happens.

In 2008 PPP got their 124 seats to become the largest party by getting just 13% of the eligible vote bank of 85 million voters.

PMLNs mandate of 91 seats came from a DISMAL 8.3 % of the Eligible votes. And PMLQ, got their 54 seats through 10% percent of the eligible votes. Yes they got more votes than PML (N).
So the three largest parties got approx. 80% SEATS through 30% of the ELIGIBLE VOTE. 70% PERCENT PEOPLE REJECTED THEM either through non participation (60%) or voting for others (10%).

So really any party which can “game” and “buy” the system through “rural electables” pre poll rigging, every dirty trick, including partnering with their worst enemies (Qatil League and PPP, MQM and ANP etc) gets into power.

The 2012 election was no different.

PMLN officially got a mere 17% of the registered vote to brag about their heavy mandate of 126 seats from the 272 up for grabs. This notwithstanding the now widely accepted fact that massive rigging got them a minimum of 30 to a maximum of 60 seats.

So even if one were to accept these official ECP numbers, even then a WHOPPING 83% percent registered voters of Pakistan have rejected the PMLN either by voting against them or not voting.
Look at some of the other parties.  PPP takes 8% of the registered vote for 33 seats, Imran Khan’s PTI 9 % of the registered vote (more than PPP) for their 28 seats. 

But wait look at this. MQM gets 3% of the registered vote for 19 seats and Mullah Diesel Rehman with 1.7% of the registered vote swings in 11 seats and enough to blackmail everybody.
So all a party needs is about between 13% to 17% of the registered Vote; however which way they can, rig, cheat, bribe, and then rule with impunity for 5 years.

Our Electoral process and system has to change otherwise we will continue to get these “rotten” eggs back in power who do not have the intent, the passion and even more importantly the skills, capability and capability to deliver results.

It has been estimated that the National Assembly seats rotate amongst 1246 people / families.

So it is clear that we will continue to be held hostage by dynastic politics and see such sickening sights of a wimpish effeminate Bilawal hailed as the future “peoples” leader.

Or a smirking corrupt to the hilt Hamza raising his finger like a Mussolini, as if taunting this spineless nation for their absolute sheep like acceptance of their exploitation.

Or a Mariam Nawaz, pretty and charming as she is, nurtured as the next heir apparent and silently but viciously vying with Hamza for the Sharif legacy.

Despite the “public bonhomie” between the brothers GRIMM, a royal battle is on between them to the extent that no business can be conducted in Punjab, unless it is, as fairly substantiated rumors go ( I don’t have receipts and clandestine tapes unfortunately), facilitated by the younger GRIMM and his “fixers”. These guys allegedly report directly to Hamza and Salman, the other son of SS, who no one hears about.

Are we fated to suffer this utter nonsense and continue to be held hostage by dynastic politics or do we somehow break their strangle hold ?.

So here are some thoughts on a possible way out

Firstly and for starters is the need for electoral reform and a Presidential form of government elected through direct adult franchise, with more than 50% of the vote and not first past the post.  The same for provincial Governors and the Federal and Provincial legislatures.

A key change in the governance structure is the constitutional power to these Federal and Provincial Chief Executives (President and Governors) to appoint the most capable technocrats, to cabinet posts.  These technocrats do not have to be elected legislators as is currently required, but as in the USA, are appointed to cabinet posts by the President / Governors and approved by Senate and Congressional Standing Committees, before they take office.  

This way we have people, who may have personal political affiliations and biases towards a political party or person, but also have the professional expertise and capability to address the strategy and policy making of their respective portfolios.
Otherwise we are doomed to see the strange sight of a street hooligan like Abid Sher Ali trying to sort out Pakistan’s energy crisis, using tactics reminiscent of a local small time badmash, uncouth, uncivilized, with no idea of the industry, its issues, the long terms ramifications of current decisions etc. 
Or our good old Jack in the Box, Khawaja Saad Rafique trying to fix the railways, General Musharraf, Imran Khan and everybody in Pakistan, except his portfolio and concurrently running lucrative real estate empires.

Or even more dangerous and frightening is the silky tounged, smooth operator Ittefaq Accountant turned Economist, the one and only vanishing beard Ishaq Dar.  As he convinces all and sundry about his efforts to control the exchange rate, putting us into debt, selling bonds at exorbitant rates, and fixing economy, he is digging our economic grave. And at the same time enjoying his immense Dubai based real estate empire, and Lamborghinis for his son.

How on earth do we expect that these guys will deliver for the good of the country?. They are either completely incompetent or corrupt, and the combination of the two gives us a Raja Rental!!

So it is critical to have a process which allows capable, competent and subject matter expert professionals, into positions of senior policymaking, cabinet level roles, who know the subject, the business, the industry and the field. While one doesn’t even hand over one’s car to a driver who doesn’t know how to drive, yet we calmly hand over the reins of a major ministry to a street badmash!!

Secondly, we also need more provinces to break the strangle hold of the larger provinces on the politics of Pakistan. 17 at least if not 30 as Dr. Tahir Ul Qadri says. And I am not a Qadri supporter.  This will bring local government closer to the people. 

This requires further reform, to implement the Musharraf era type of Direct Local Government with administrative and financial authority in the hands of the Districts and Tehsils. This will take away the financial power of the provincial and federal legislatures and administration with which they currently rule like Feudal Lords, treating the administrative machinery and police as their personal hired goons.

Isn’t it obvious that the PPP and now the PMLN government have completely ignored and attempted to destroy what was clearly the best Local Government system in Pakistan, under General Musharraf? Because it took away the financial power and the administrative authority from the federal and provincial MNA’s and MPAs and the PM and the CMs, and these are the very people that parties use to catapult them into power and vice versa.  

What a perfectly cute little arrangement, and the rest of the country thinks that this is “democracy”. And it really helps to buy out a few media houses and pole vault third rate pseudo-journalists into becoming the “voice of the people”.  The recent GEO, Hamid Mir and ISI issue is still very fresh.

Clearly, being a realist, one doesn’t advocate a utopian ideal where everyone is clean and honest and hardworking.  Granted that there will still be corruption at the District and Tehsil local government level, and contracts will go to favored ones. 

In the existing system there is really no accountability of public funds, because they come from far of power centers, administered by colonial type officers bearing no allegiance or sensitivities to local needs.  Conversely a genuine Local government system holds the locally elected officials to instant accountability on a daily basis and significantly reduce chances of re-election if they fail. Also and very importantly these elected District and Tehsil Nazims, by virtue of their office have to reside in their cities and towns, attend regular office hours every day, and meet and face local people every day.  

And it is this local proximity and daily accountability and access which drives public service and public good.  

How can one forget the strange phenomenon of Fakhar Imam and Shah Mahmood Qureshi choosing to become District Nazims and not elected MNAs as power got devolved to the local government system under Zia.

On the other hand in the existing system, the local MNA or an MPA or Senator, once elected is likely living in the comforts of an urban city like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad driving around in their sleek 4X4’s, Mercedes, Porsches, followed and preceded by VIGOs,  laden with guards, and their children studying in North America, Europe, Australia etc. 

This while the hapless poor running from pillar to post under a DCO or a DPO, only answerable to the Chief Minister, who knows his or her own future  is secure as long as they are in the good graces of their “Master”. So to hell with the populace.

So come next election time, these master crafters called politicians, spend a lot of money which they have “earned” through massive financial corruption, get a ticket, rig the election, get elected and go back to their palaces and Land Cruisers and Vigos. 

Such is the current tragedy of our current electoral and governance system.

Also under the new system, the primary role of the Federal and provincial elected legislatures should be to Legislate and develop new laws for better governance. The system will completely disassociate them from administrative and financial authority. The result will be that only those people will vie for public office, who are genuinely interested in public well-being, because the financial lure is no longer available.
These changes in the electoral process and governance structure presented are perhaps one of many ways we can get effective good governance at the grass roots to deliver results which build a Nation and provide for the welfare and well-being of society. 

This is not a utopian ideal.  

In fact we have seen such a system deliver some great results. Under Gen Musharraf’s we saw in his first three years, how a cabinet of 17 technocrats administered with great effectiveness and how the local government at the grass roots and nearly delivered a miracle. But he too fell victim to the machinations of the “Old guard” and the rest is history. .

So we need a BIG CHANGE in the CONSTITUTION.  to the electoral process and the governance structure. 

The question is how and who will bell the cat?

Some options.
One. The men on horseback come riding in, throw everyone out, set up a constitutional assembly, make the changes, put it to referendum and then move on.  Not recommended as this does more harm than good.

Two. The People rise to create a Tahrir square, Ukraine, Thailand like environment, bringing the country to a standstill.  The Supreme Court may then declare a state of emergency, ask the Army to first clear the law and order situation, appoint a neutral caretaker set up ( not imported like Moeen Qureshi) and then this set up seeks a referendum on the issue and an interim arrangement to bring about the constitutional changes and then the ELECTION under new rules.
Lots required and won’t come easy for sure.  

But most importantly it has to be delivered through the genuine WILL of the PEOPLE.  Like someone very close to me always says.  Even if we get good leaders in Pakistan, where will we get the “good” people to follow the “good” leaders.  Point worth pondering. Perhaps it is time we woke up from our sleep and redeem our future.

The bottom line is that the status quo of Sharifs and Zardaris should not and must not last. 

They cannot be allowed to bleed this country dry and hoodwink people into thinking that this “democracy” is their ticket to eternal salvation . it is not. It is a “Sharifocracy” and a “Zardariocracy” or a “Mullahcracy” and it is only “their ticket” to “salvation” not the peoples.
And here is the biggest threat they pose. 

These evil elements will attempt to destroy any institution which has the potential to threaten their nice pristine golden goose order.

The Pakistan Army is on top and in their cross hairs. How Nawaz Sharif would love to lord over the Generals and Brigadiers etc as he does over police IG’s, Senior beuracrats. Transferring and posting them at his and his cronies’s whim and fancyops that list. 

So one is not at all surprised at the criminal manner in which the present government handled the Hamid Mir, GEO, ISI affair. 

If they manage to get their way in weakening the Pakistan Army, we are in really serious trouble.

I do not in any form advocate military adventurism but in times like this we have limited options. This I say despite my personal aversion to military adventurism in governance.

So I don’t know what Imran Khan and Qadri saheb and others have up their sleeves.  But one thing is for sure that if change has to come then they must create a Tahrir Square like situation and we hope it will lead to a better Pakistan.

Otherwise we will never know, because clearly the current system is not working !!

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