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Local Bodies and Intra Party Democracy

What does democracy mean? A system elected by the people from the people and for the people? If only it were as simple as that. This very word is interpreted in different ways in different parts of the world and has been a bone of contention in several opposing power structures. In the world’s superpower there lies a Presidential system while European states have adopted a parliamentary system of democracy.

Pakistan has seen a great variety in systems of governance, more than half it’s life under the domain of differently motivated Generals, a great amount of time under bickering politicians and all it’s time in the tussle between the two. The list of the things we have failed in keeps on increasing as time passes but there are certain issues, which have not been given their due providence.

As much as we might boast to the international community about the emergence of democracy in our beloved country, we are still quite far from adopting democratic principles when it comes to real power sharing between the rulers and subjects. In a democracy, every citizen is equal. Now compare our billionaire rulers with an average citizen. Equality will be the last thing in sight. Great troubles are taken to widen the gap between the rulers and the ruled and the time will not be far before merely a hundred men will be the sole benefactors of this nation of 200 million oppressed citizens.

The allure of power is too hard to resist for our politicians, whatever creed they might adhere to. Thus, the sharing of power is a tricky subject to say the least when senate seats are selling for a few million dollars and MPAs are traded like a commodity. The provincial assemblies serve as the index to this commodity while daily political developments result in a fluctuation in the rate per MPA.

Amongst the various political battles fought between the government and the opposition, all the political parties seem to stand united in a joint conspiracy. The conspiracy against the implementation of the Local Government System, sharing power from the national and provincial system to the local bodies. Ironically, it was a military dictator who gave power to the grassroots politician while our democratic leaders are content with their cronies serving as masters of the people.

Democracy becomes a very fuzzy line in such circumstances where one is forced to ask whether a democratic system consists of merely national elections to elect one executive of the country? If that is so, why even bother to have political parties? Unfortunately, if one looks at the political parties of Pakistan, democracy will be nowhere to be found. When there is no democracy within the party, how can they ask for democracy outside of it?

Consider the ruling party, the lifelong chairman is one man, who is egoistically blatant enough to attach his first name after his political party. Apart from being the Prime Minister, his younger brother is not only the chief executive of the richest province of Pakistan but his family is also a major stakeholder in various business interests of Pakistan ranging from sugar, steel, dairy and everything in between. The number two party has never held elections even as a media display since they recognize that political legitimacy is passed through blood not by political struggle. I am referring to the PPP, which claims to espouse democracy for the masses but rules itself via the dictatorship of one multibillionaire family. The PTI, which was supposed to be different from the status quo also found itself under a problem when Justice Wajihuddin complained of rigging and horse-trading in the intra party elections of his party. Akbar S Babar, a founding member has brought evidence of this to light to the Election Commission of Pakistan while claiming that the former cricketing hero is ruling his party like a self-centered, dictatorial tyrant impatient to impose his will on his party members. Several MNAs from KP who were asked to resign testify to the truth of this allegation.

JUI and ANP are also inherited political parties by the son and grandson of the respective founders. Both suffering from vast allegations of corruption, incompetence and nepotism. MQM, the largest party of our industrial hub is also run by Altaf bhai thus no one else will ever be in charge until he is around. Ironically, it is only the religiously bigoted political party, the Jamaat-e-Islaami, which has introduced true democracy in its party. Goes to show that alleged extremists are often times more democratic than alleged democrats.

When our citizens understand the political situation, how can they expect these parties to allow the Local Government System to be functional? They are too used to having a tight grip on the power structure emerging from their party and find it hard to accommodate so many people in the circles of decision-making. This sentiment is shared by the MNAs and MPAs of these parties since they too do not want to share the development funds from their constituencies as they use these funds to blackmail the people to vote for them. One should ask our lawmakers why they do not want to legislate and want to instead act like the godfathers of their respective constituencies. This situation serves well the party leadership too, since they only have to deal with a handful of people while brokering the arrangements in the power structure.

The PML-N is in power in the center and Punjab. The PTI is in power in KPK. The PPP is in power in Sindh and a democratic alliance is in power in Balochistan. If any one of these parties truly claim to be democratic, they should implement the Local Government System immediately as it is evident that a single MNA and two MPAs are not enough to cater to the needs of hundreds of thousands of citizens in a constituency. The people of this beloved nation demand to elect their own Nazims and Tehsildars, their own union councils so that their voice can reach the corridors of power and they can allocate resources accordingly. Any one party can take the first step, but it is unlikely that the present political ruling elite is interested in sharing power.

Without naming any names, I demand the stakeholders of this country to apply pressure to the political leadership of this country to truly implement democracy otherwise the nation sees no difference between a military dictator and a civilian who at one point in time, thought it more wise to become Amir-ul-Momineen rather than Prime Minister.

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