Consult with me on Maven
Consult with me on Maven

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Step Forward on The Democratic Road?

My questions that begs answer, to be able to say yes Pakistan has moved forward on the Democratic Road as a result of May 11 2013 elections. Answers will become clear within few months. We must watch carefully

A Step Forward on the Democratic Road?                              
Daily Times May 27 2013
 May 11 elections are generally hailed as a major step forward in the direction of Democracy in Pakistan. Arguments can be forwarded both in favor and against this position. Democratization means transfer of real powers to people. It is a process of including the secluded. People exercise their control through elected representatives. Elections are the key to Democracy. It can be claimed without fear of reasonable rebuttal that these elections have generated the most controversies; keeping aside the 1977 elections, which will need a different debate. Having said that, one must also understand that democracy never comes neatly and disciplined. It is noisy and the road to it is bumpy. Democracy also does not come at once; it comes gradually through a continuous process. So, despite many controversies and legitimate questions about its fairness, elections have taken place after five years of an elected government, which is positive occurrence in its own right. A new government is ready to replace the outgoing one at center. In two provinces government will change hands while in two those in power earlier have returned. Despite the controversies this can become a step in the right direction. However, challenges and dangers to the process have not finished. The new elected governments, especially at the center have the task of consolidating and furthering the democratic gains. This write up focuses on the federal government


Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) is poised to form the federal government with its leader Mian Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister. People are watching him, his moves and statements whether his government is furthering democratization process or not, even before he takes oath of office. Apprehensions exist from the experience of his past. However, to be fair, he is making the right noises and moves right now.  His statements are guarded, balanced and shows maturity. His statement on relations with India, not permitting the use of Pakistani territory for terrorism in any foreign country, relations with USA and even on drones shows the direction he wants Pakistan to go. More pointed is his statement on not permitting a repeat of Kargil. The big question is, will he be able to do so? For the moment we set aside the position that he does even intend to.
To be able to do lead this country forward in the democratization process Mina Nawaz Sharif as the elected Prime Minister, has to establish the authority of the parliament and cabinet as the place where real decisions are taken. Pakistan’s domestic and international environment is better positioned to help him in that than ever before. Kargil happened because whatever little he was told about it, he did not fully comprehend it and went along. He further failed in taking action immediately after the fiasco it proved itself to be. His not understanding is not an issue, he should have had a system of independent experts, which apparently he lacked. His inability to act afterwards was a result of his personal indecisiveness and the political culture of this country had not strengthened Pakistan’s elected leadership to the level that it could act. Political configuration of power today has tilted towards elected leadership more than it was then. However, has he or will he be able to set up a system of independent expert inputs is a question that needs answer.  How much he has personally grown, despite most of his well wishers saying so and some indications of that growth, has yet to be tested.
If he is able to move on his India policy, he will start a chain of policy changes that will gradually help Pakistani democracy inside and peaceful environment outside it. It is Pakistan’s India centric security threat perceptions that has driven it closer to religious extremists outside and has provided a strengthening environment to these forces inside. Improvement of relations with India will also have a direct bearing on Afghanistan, where it will lead to a proportionate decrease in Pak India conflict and will push Pakistan to help in bring peace there.
It is understood such changes take time and there are many interests and a strong mind set cultivated carefully over the years that will resist it. Democracy is not a revolution but a gradual process. Popular myths will be strongest to dismantle. He must understand time is not on his side, so while moving slowly, the assertion of authority by elected leadership must not be too slow. The results will take time but there will be indicators visible very soon. The next after his statements to watch for are the appointments. Three appointments has to be made immediately, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister (& may be advisor) and Ambassador to US (& probably UK). It has been reported that he intends to keep the Defense portfolio himself. It can mean his intention to have a better control (but we shall see). There are reports of Mr. Sartaj Aziz as Foreign Minister. This can be significant as Mr. Aziz is an economist which may mean more importance to economic considerations than foreign/ security considerations. There are many names for the Ambassadorship and whoever is appointed will tell how much he controls the real decision making.
At domestic level PMLN government will be facing the challenge of peace, governance and economic revival. All these are tied to each other. Progress on them is also connected with PMLN’s control of the State institutions and the above mentioned foreign policy issues. In the smaller provinces, except for ANP the ethno linguistic nationalist parties found alliance with PMLN better suited to further their politics. They will be expecting progress on the issue of National Languages as promised in PMLN Manifesto and provincial autonomy. Will PMLN government be able to implement the provincial autonomy provided for in the Constitution of Pakistan after the 18th Constitutional Amendment? PPP/ANP can claim credit for correct naming of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and scrapping of the concurrent list. These nationalists preferring PMLN will be expecting and others will be watching whether PMLN completes the implementation of 18th amendment? This will also tell whether they were right in their choice or not? Progress on this count will mean strengthening of democracy and democratic control. It must be understood that inability of the PPP/ANP to fully implement the devolution of powers to provinces was due to bureaucratic hurdles and in some cases the interest of some individuals.

It will be clearer as days and months pass, whether Pakistan has moved further on the Democratic road or has it stumbled. Whether Pakistan is moving towards that will be known from the initial steps that the elected governments will be taking very soon. You can a reach an announced destination only if you start moving towards it. If you move in some other direction than the announced destination than it will be known immediately you are not going where you said you are. Those travelling with you will then have to decide whether they want to continue travelling with you or not. Others not on your bus will also decide to board it or stay out.
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