Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Governance and Democracy in Pakistan

The constitution of Pakistan is being re-engineered again. Well, one must not be surprised or cry about this activity, as this has been a trend in the ruling system of Pakistan since the first peace of document "Objectives Resolution" was produced on March 12, 1949. Though the ‘causes’ and the ‘needs of the time’ are given whenever this poor document is altered but the fact of the matter remains the same that every ruler has used the constitution to control the situation in their favour and remain in power.

To understand the shortcomings in the governance and the democracy in Pakistan, one must find explanations for the weaknesses in political tolerance and identity. Analytically, there appear to be sets of reasonably autonomous and enduring beliefs and values within Pakistan that have important consequences in the societal and ultimately political spheres. Popular expectations of authority, in particular toward those who govern, must be understood and presumably altered if Pakistan is to realize the kind of system that permits a sustainable democracy. Legal provisions and better people seeking public office are important, but progress in building civic virtue or civic spirit will also have to occur. In the absence of such a culture, factional anarchy and authoritarian rule remain thrive.

Historically, the political culture in Pakistan is a strong product of its past that links to the pre-partition British Rule. What Pakistan's leaders knew best from this inheritance was the so-called viceregal system that made little or no provision for popular awareness or involvement. The system was designed to rule over a subjected population and intended to keep order and collect taxes. In fact, what the British bequeathed was often a contradiction between theories of governance and their practices. Ideals of representative government and equality before the law were incomplete transformations. The territorial issues and border conflicts with India, the socio-cultural differences within the country, struggle for a share of power between the states and the early death of the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah are those realities which not only politicized the policy-making elites and their willingness in introducing the fair democratic procedures but also encouraged the non-democratic elements including the army. Consequently, even after half a century the country could not get cleaned from the feudal, tribal andpunchayat systems and sectarian segregations and the public has been left untutored in the kind of vigilance usually needed to hold political leaders accountable.

Pakistan was without a formal, written constitution until 1956. The democratic myths that so often sustain a system were thus only weakly instilled, and precedents were created that undermined those few parliamentary and democratic norms that could be drawn upon. It did not help that in the early years non-party prime ministers were appointed by the head of state rather than by those who had to appeal to an electorate. Mass involvement in politics, if defined by rallies and periodic opportunities to vote, certainly increased over the years. Street demonstrations helped to bring down governments, namely Ayub's in 1968, Yahya Khan's in 1971, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's in 1977. Yet while these actions strengthen feelings of efficacy, none can be easily equated with democratic processes.

The weakness of democratic practices in Pakistan can be explained in many ways. Some observers stress constitutional and electoral provisions among institutional factors said to have undermined responsible and responsive government. Others point to the quality of Pakistan's leadership over most of Pakistan’s history, namely, that Pakistan has been let down by unprincipled political figures motivated by raw ambition, material gain and vested interests.

The subsequent education of people to accept democracy through meaningful participation in their political affairs is minimal. Without wide public awareness and an effective public opinion, the political system gives wide berth to ambitious and corrupts political leaders. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the two times democratically elected prime ministers, are the perfect examples of the corruptions at the leadership level. Instead of including a broad citizenry in the political process, power is concentrated in the hands of an elitist bureaucracy and over-ambitious military. The country's semi-feudal system with its sets of obligations and hierarchy provided similarly inhospitable soil for building a democracy. The traditional power brokers, the wealthy, large land-holding families, are prepared to give their allegiance to anyone who promised to protect their material interests and way of life.

The civilian government succumbed to military rule that sought to legitimize itself with the public by attacks on democratic ideals and political institutions in hopes of leaving them in disrepute as well as decay. Despite the revival of democracy from time to time, it is predictably held in suspicion. One of the tenets of civil society, the concept of a legitimate opposition, naturally won little acceptance among competing political elites or within the larger public. These outpourings marked a breakdown in law and order, and reflected above all an absence of trust in authority. Such anomic movements may have heralded demands for better representation but in themselves were more the signs of frustration and anger than of belief in a more pluralistic, tolerant political system.

The election of 1970, the first to be held on the basis of universal suffrage, appeared to be a watershed for democracy. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto -who was the creation of a military ruler, Ayub Khan - provided the strongest hope for a politics that would involve the masses and socialize them to democratic and socialist ideals. The mass mobilization of the electorate by his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) succeeded in communicating with many rural voters. People listened to Bhutto and other political leaders not only at rallies but over radio and television. The issues of the day were articulated forcefully and clearly, such that voters had meaningful choices to make. And these masses demonstrated that they could throw off, if it really served their interests - the feudal assumptions that usually shaped their attitudes and actions. Yet rather than build up his popular movement on the democratic ideals of supremacy of the people, in power Bhutto shed much of the regime's populist ideology and strongly personalized his rule rather than working through participatory institutions and educating the public to their value. By his 1977 re-election campaign, he had come to rely on feudals and discarded many of the political allies who had stood with him earlier. Above all, Bhutto had failed to deliver the fair governance and a true democracy. While he had opened up for the future the possibility of more participatory politics, the civic virtues that would be needed to buttress it were in the end discredited.

Pakistan could indeed become a crucible for determining whether extensions of democratic practice are likely to provide a successful means of accommodating militant Islamic political movements. The country's experiences suggest that militant Islamic parties may be moderated when given a democratic option - an honest opportunity to compete. The popularity of Islamic parties in many cities and towns, according to this reasoning, is largely of a protest variety, coming from the denial of a more open political process. However, many analysts also seriously question the compatibility of Islamic doctrines with more liberal conceptions of democracy. Very likely the best reason to insist on the appropriateness of democratic values and institutions is that, from an ideological-constitutional standpoint, democracy does not represent an alien goal. Pakistan was founded on many of these precepts, and as ideals they continue to resonate widely. Such basic ideas as representative government and rule of law remain part of the Pakistani society's aspirations for itself. To be sure, there has been a rejection at the emotional level of some aspects of western culture and disgust with secular political institutions. Replacement with authentic Islamic institutions is the widely accepted ultimate objective. The kind of civil society and underlying culture appropriate for Pakistan should not be expected to mimic western experiences. Any democracy in Pakistan will have to take into account certain Islamic prescriptions and other legacies. Experiencing and mixing western democratic system with Islamic laws will continue to create more loopholes in the ruling mechanism.

In general, opportunities for a fair governance, true democracy and civil society in Pakistan can only flourish when democratic practices are allowed to prevail under the supremacy of unchanged constitution. The repeated dismissal or overthrow of elected regimes, alterations in the constitutions that suit to existing ruler, leaves no positive memory and little chance for institutions to adapt and supportive values to root.

Though the elections sometime are tainted by design or overzealous officials, the regular elections will ultimately provide democratic practices to the contestants in which losers accept defeat and winners are magnanimous in victory, the greater the chances for an electoral process capable of surviving inevitable challenges. The inefficient and incapable politicians may continue to participate and seek power but the people of Pakistan will also learn and understand better the democratic values and responsibilities over the period.

The writer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and a political analyst.


by courtesy & © 2002 Syed Atiq ul Hassan

Corporate Governance Leadership Skills

The PICG acts as a platform to provide its members as well as non-members, value-added services and regular activities that in addition to other benefits also offer networking opportunities.

Governance - United Nations Development Programme Empowered lives.Resilient nations.

The link between human development and quality of governance is strong and well established and is at the core of development issues in Pakistan. This is reflected in the national strategies to attain MDGs through, Improved governance and consolidating devolution, both as a means of delivering better development results and ensuring social and economic justice. These considerations underpin UNDP Pakistan's efforts in supporting governance processes and institutions that would improve their response to the needs of Pakistani citizens. The governance interventions are aimed at making policy formulation and implementation more effective and participatory; enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of key governing institutions; and supporting initiatives for citizens involvement in decisions that affect their lives. In this context the governance programme is working with the Government of Pakistan and national partners in three core areas of intervention: (i) devolution support; (ii) strengthening governing institutions; and (iii) economic governance.

Pakistan has introduced a devolved system of governance that is aimed at improving the quality of and access to public services delivery at the local levels. UNDP Pakistan supports government institutions in policy formulation and implementation of devolution at the national, provincial and local levels.

Strong, credible and effective governing institutions that have the confidence of the citizens and the ability to deliver their mandate are the foundations of sound governance. UNDP Pakistan supports capacity strengthening of the key governing institutions such as Parliament and Election Commission of Pakistan and other public sector organizations and enables their engagement with other partners in civil society to improve the relevance and effectiveness of their mandate.

Under the economic governance component, UNDP Pakistan is also involved in issues of public-private partnerships, advocating global compact, promoting corporate social responsibility, policy research on globalization and strengthening aid coordination.

Asia-wide transparency in governance

NANNING: Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called upon political parties in Asian countries to enforce highest standards of transparency and accountability in government and institutions to ensure that people remain invested in the political process.

Addressing the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), Bilawal said Asia was expected to contribute more than half of the world’s economic output, restoring the world’s largest continent to the position of economic dominance it had held 300 years ago.

“We may be witnessing the birth of a new world order,” he said and pointed that everyone was calling the 21st century the “Asian Century”. Bilawal is heading a five-member delegation comprising KP Governor Barrister Masood Kausar, PPP General Secretary Senator Jahangir Badar, PPPP MNA and General Secretary Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, and Special Assistant to the Chairman PPP Hashaam Riaz Sheikh. Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Masood Khan was also present at the conference.

The conference is being attended by about 150 delegates representing 53 political parties from 26 countries of Asia including Turkey, Japan, Iran, Uzbekistan, South Korea, India, Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. The PPP chairman said ICAPP as a gathering of Asia’s top political leadership is an exceedingly important forum in the 21st Century, which in itself is a tribute to the foresight and vision of the organisation’s founding leaders.

He said the Asian Declaration issued at the end of the first ICAPP in Manila 11-year ago is to read a manifesto for today. “That document touches on all the major issues of our times and its call for Asian countries to strengthen economic cooperation, guard against future financial crises and establish an Asian Monetary Fund (AMF) resonates more deeply today than they did even in 2000,” he added.

“These words should give us pause as Asia teeters on the brink of a second global recession that is not of its making – barely three years after it weathered the first,” Bilawal said. He urged for reflection on the first ICAPP’s appeal to Asian governments to do more to address poverty and economic inequalities. He said economic development should be for the people, not at the expense of the people.

“We in Pakistan have initiated the Benazir Income Support Programme, which serves the dual purpose of poverty alleviation and women’s emancipation. Over 80 billion rupees have been distributed to four million women living in poverty,” he said. The PPP chairperson said there is something prophetic about the declaration’s appeal to Asian countries to seek the peaceful resolution of regional disputes and act in unison against trans-national crimes.

He said force alone will not defeat terrorism and extremism – unless it is force tempered with political engagement and economic development. Referring to the heavy rains and flooding in Sindh and Balochistan in which millions have been displaced, placing an enormous burden on the people, he said, “We are a resilient nation and we will fully recover.”

“It is worrying that some unable to reach the necessary compromise to address their own internal structural economic flaws instead choose to demonise emerging Asian economic superpowers,” Bilawal added. This dangerous short sightedness could lead to paranoid overreactions with catastrophic consequences, he said, adding, “I dread the return to the divided world, a world of competing spheres of influence, a world of cold wards, a world of hot wars, a world of cyber wars and a world of economic wars. We want a united world of equals not a divided world of rivals.”

Bilwal expressed happiness that the conference has afforded him an opportunity to visit China during the ‘Pakistan-China Friendship Year’. app