Democracy, like charity, begins at home
Our democracy is not a democratic one. Like charity, democracy begins at home. But not so in Pakistan where it remains the preserve of the few. The government’s initiative to inject transparency in elections to the Senate is thus timely but not enough. Now that the government is talking about electoral reforms and the opposition alliance is calling for a new charter, let both unfold their proposed drafts for public debate unlike what happened when passing the 18th Amendment.
This country has limped and prodded for too long. It has been over seven decades since its birth and yet it is groping for a democratic order that will work for every citizen, for every province, for every region. So where to begin? From home. The first step: democratise the political parties from their present status of private limited companies, owned and operated as family enterprises unlike in the mother of parliamentary democracy from where we copied it selectively nor nearer home in India which some of us are very fond of citing as an example. If truly done, through a Constitutional amendment, it will be the greatest service to this country and will have a permanent impact on its democratic functioning for it will unburden the parties of family liabilities which keep the system hostage to their deeds or misdeeds.
Secondly, create a constitutionally mandated and administratively and financially empowered elected local government system nationwide. Thirdly, introduce a proportionate system of representation which also enables the common man or woman to reach the parliament rather than the first past the post system in vogue today. Fourthly, reduce the tenure of the provincial and National Assembly to four from the present five years given our impatience with the incumbents.
Fifthly, elections to the Senate be direct with every province equally represented and only a permanent resident/domicile of the province to be elected from that province. Sixthly, no person to be elected as President or Prime Minister for more than two tenures. Seventhly, the Constitution must mandate provincial finance awards so cities, towns and districts get financial resource and spending powers for their elected local governments. Eighthly, health, education and climate be put back on the concurrent list in the larger national interest as it is in most federal democracies of the world including the United States. Ninthly, create more provinces, at least South Punjab. Tenthly, humanise our criminal justice system and make justice inexpensive and accessible to the common man.
And last but not the least, humanise our policing system too, making it work for the people rather than against them. Let the government take the lead as the Prime Minister appears inclined. Let him and his team draw a detailed draft and send it to the opposition and then unfold it for a public debate. Pakistan, its democracy and its institutions will emerge stronger and more vibrant and so shall Pakistan and Pakistanis. Please Prime Minister, take that important first step.