Pakistan: Democracy, Corruption and Poor Governance
By Sajjad Shaukat
No doubt, favorite system of governance in the Western countries is democracy. By using their legitimate right of vote, people participate in political process, and elect their own representatives to govern them. Thus, they give mandate by authorizing the elected members to hold public offices and make legitimate decisions to run the affairs of state. And, the elected representatives remain accountable for their actions, while, the system of electoral democracy also empowers the voters to take away the powers of the elected members, if they fall short of popular aspirations—good governance, solution of public problems and so on.
In case of Pakistan’s version of democracy, it has the same system of representatives according to the constitution, but the elected representatives grossly violate the public mandate for obtaining their selfish and materialistic gains. Regrettably, voters, after having elected their representatives, virtually become subjects of powerful elite who tend to shatter all hopes of voters by neglecting their social problems, financial difficulties and psychological distress. Promises made during election campaign are quickly forgotten, while perks of public offices are fully enjoyed. Irony of the fate is that same elite group gets elected over and over again and election campaigns are held as rituals. Unfortunately, voters, due to their extreme poverty and poignant standing lack social influence and political power, becoming trading pawns in the hands of politicians who regard elections as windows of business opening to plunder national wealth through all possible means of corruption whose result is poor governance.
Most of the elected representatives in National Assembly and Senate hardly make any worthwhile contribution, as they remain absent during active sessions of the parliament. Therefore, sessions of the lower and upper houses are adjourned due to lack of quorum, and the process of essentially required legislation remains blank and weary. Resultantly, the voters’ aspirations turn into hopeless ordeal, dejection and despondency.
It is notable that various mal-practices such as horse-trading, nepotism, bribery, illegal obligations and other forms of corruption are very common among our politicians. In fact, the elite group of elected members uses powers of their public offices to advance their personal interests including engagement in politics of THANA and KUCHHERY (Police and Court), earnestly seeking allotment of development and discretion funds and timely steps of sycophancy to please the top party leaders. Poor educational background makes them inactive and soundless during debate sessions to approve or reject key issues, requiring parliamentary endorsement. They also remain oblivious of world politics and philosophical aspirations of great leaders like Nelson Mandela. Thus, they promote their personal interests, and show total callousness towards torment of their voters.
Undoubtedly, in Pakistan, corruption is a significant obstacle for good governance, supremacy of law, and rational use of authority to run the affairs of state and to maintain public cohesion and national harmony. Unfortunately, corrupt practices and misuse of public office lead to general frustration, opening windows of protest with sense of dissent, disapproval and conflict against the governing authority. The environment of agitation and demonstrations carry seeds of large scale disturbances, creating law and order situation, social disorder and political chaos, culminating in poor governance. In a real democratic system, hence, wise rulers undertake tangible measures to fight corruption with a view to improve governance and maintain order.
It is our misfortune that rampant corruption in the country has infected the entire edifice of national institutions, while the rule of law appears to have been totally disregarded. Consequently few parasites devouringly consume best of resources, while the poor majority remains repressed and victimized under hard economic conditions.
The elite leadership despite having been empowered by the masses through a democratic process has developed vicious aversion, disgusting dislike, malicious vindictiveness and insensitivity against general public, they actually represent.
Political leadership is busy in power grabbing process, while the poor suffer under hard environment where healthy food, clean drinking water, respectable shelter, justice, education and health care facilities are totally non-existent.
In this regard, the ordeal of poor in Pakistan can well be anticipated by prevailing un-employment, poor living and health conditions, price hike, social injustice, contempt for merit, promoting cronyism, and poor law and order situation in the country.
Regrettably, the concerned ministers remain busy in settling scores against their political rivals, using floor of parliament and media channels. Most of their time and effort is spent on preparing fierce speeches to level fresh tirades of accusations and counter allegations.
The poor voters remain bewildered as protesting groups, PAT and PTI make noises in sit-ins, at Islamabad, pointing out corruption of subsequent rulers of the PPP and the present ones of the PML (N), as to what they have done under the cover of democracy. While ruling elite and their associates in opposition benches of the parliament have termed the protests as unlawful, unconstitutional and undemocratic.
Besides, political leaders enraged outbursts, filled with allegations and counter accusations. Some of them, especially of the PPP and PML (N) have shamefully tried their best to drag the Armed Forces into political turmoil. They have brazenly accused Pak Army and country’s prime intelligence agency, ISI (without any evidence) for orchestrating the prevailing political impasse which was created by the politicians themselves.
On the other side, through various statements, DG of ISPR Maj-Gen. Asim Bajwa repeatedly said, “Pakistan Army supports democracy and constitution.” He elaborated, “The army chief in his address on Youm-i-Shuhuda (Martyrs’ Day) clearly said that the army believes in continuation and democracy.”
However, these parliamentarians and leaders have disregarded the commitment and sacrifices, being offered by the Armed Forces in the operation Zarb-e-Azb and flood relief operation. All the patriot citizens of Pakistan know that for the last few months, Pakistan’s Armed Forces are successfully obtaining their objectives in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) through this military operation against the terrorists who had challenged the writ of the state, and had frightened the entire nation by their terror-acts. The Armed Forces are also engaged in rescue-operations in the flood-affected areas. Besides, Pak Army has also been coping with subversive activities in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and other parts of the country including tribal areas in wake of India’s war-like diplomacy and cross-border infiltration from Afghanistan’s side.
In fact, under the cover of democracy and constitution, some politicians of the government and the opposition parties who want to protect their nefarious designs are targeting the Armed Forces. Thus, they are diverting the attention of the general masses from those articles of the constitution, which are mentioned in the ‘Principles of Policy.’ These articles clearly mention that people would provide with justice, gap between the rich and the poor would be reduced, and poverty would be eradicated in the country. However, our politicians and the subsequent governments of the industrialists and feudlords failed in delivering good governance to the people in accordance with the constitution. They have only deceived the public mandate in the pretext of democracy which has been named as a ‘corrupt democracy’ in Pakistan.
No doubt, Pak Army is supportive of democracy and is committed to protect the constitution of Pakistan. But, leveling derogatory allegations against Army is a serious crime, and it must not be allowed to recur under any circumstances. Army as an institution cannot be made a punching bag—subjected to public debate.
Now, the right hour has come that the political leadership must conduct introspective analysis of their style of governance, and must develop a desire to fight the menace of corruption through accountability and transparency. The aim should be to put the house in order.
As already mentioned that rule of law seems non-existent, while merit is totally disregarded. Cronyism and nepotism are fast-spreading, setting unethical precedence and bringing bad name to governance. The public perceptions are getting stronger that poor governance is due to corrupt practices and misuse of public office. The same needs to be addressed on priority. So, leadership must prepare a strategy to address the problems of general masses and stop fighting for acquiring more power, and practicing corruption.
Particularly, our own media must project corruption as a threat to good governance which must be fought through transparent and accountable practices.
Nonetheless, rampant corruption in Pakistan is posing a very serious threat to the state as well the true democracy. It has become a significant obstacle towards development, and adversely impacting the good governance and rule of law, culminating in poor governance.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations