Our political system is hardly remarkable or barely democratic, but it keeps the façade in place.
We may have been through an unpleasant political experience giving us unsavory results. Mistakes were made. Some extremely serious and injurious. The effort to divide the society and the state was perhaps the most dangerous and the closest to a civil war verging on an ill-thought rebellion — within the armed forces and between the state and the society. That we just slid by was fortuitous. Whatever happened in the shape of an inspired or an ‘engineered’ Vote of No Confidence itself was a misstep to begin with which gave us the ensuing consequences. Not that what had been engineered ‘in’ earlier was anything exemplary but once you tweak a system in hope for better — driven by impulse or anger, without having thought through the result — it is imprudent to force-stop what is already in process interrupting the cycle. We erred badly and suffered nearly cataclysmic consequences. That may be the first lesson to learn from unnatural and unfortunate tinkering of political system.
Our political system is hardly remarkable or barely democratic, but it keeps the façade in place. States need a polity to run them and in a democratic system political parties and politicians are the ones who occupationally assume the role. We may not like their level of governance and their probity in function and conduct but what you have is what you have — defined by money and class. We can’t design and fabricate them in any desired mold. It wasn’t always the case and common men took up the challenge to lead and vie for the highest stakes at each level but disruptions and politics by fits and starts meant that those only those willing to compromise and cooperate with authority began making the grade. It is now a protected fief where those who comply and submit are the stakeholders. Power elites are thus born. Democracy and credibility take a back seat. Politics tarnishes and stands badly maligned. Governance and delivery are hardly the by-words of politics. Power, money and heft is. Institutions were the next to degrade under a tainted and corroded political system.
We have been through it all and seen it all. We have also seen the consequences. And no, it wasn’t alone because the last government was manipulated out of power which brought us this misfortune, but it was and is the continuous degradation of our political structures which has brought us to this end. We barely escaped a default; our economy is shambles; our governance is non-existent; administratively, law and order do not exist; and we have little idea how we will ever climb out of this hole — regardless of the wizardry that many claim. We are in a deep hole, and we may have barely stopped digging. Slowly as the dynamics and the realities of continuous misgovernance and lack of economic vision have manifested we have turned into a mob of conmen, fortune-hunters and carpetbaggers looking to make a fortune on the fly — not govern a nation. Clearly those with such peculiarities alone can find comfort in the kind of political environment. They seek power not to serve but to make more. Government is now a business enterprise. The political class are its self-serving brokers.
The system hasn’t served the people well. Hundreds of millions suffer at the hand of such neglect in whose name a few arrogate power and control over resource and authority. The common man thus continues to remain unattended and left to his fate forever disinvested of his stake in power. That has degraded the society and its attributes to one that will do whatever it takes to survive — mayhem, crime, sell its soul to the highest bidder. We have collectively brought it to that level. It holds no qualms of ideals, of principles or whether the rulers will build the society to which he belongs. They thus rue their fortune and resign their fate to where it guides them. A society turns into a horde.
With so much known and suffered, why is it that we must still devise and design a ruler or a cabal that we think will act differently? They belong to the same gang, same tribe with similar capacities and capabilities, how will or can they ever deliver differently. Yet they are the ones who still must rule because they are the ones in the field as occupational politicians. There are though things which can and must be done to devise a system where the electorate will turn more discerning forcing and choosing only those who are credible. Once those elected are forced to deliver in their function as representatives of people and as national leaders, institutions of both the state, society and democratic structures gain. It is only with resolute, reliable, resilient and accountable political and democratic structures that democracy in a society takes root and governance stands vindicated.
An electorate will sift and discern better if it is widely educated, even at the secondary level, and belongs to a societal system which has access to basic health and feels secure in an environment which will guarantee his safety and that of his brood and property against criminal appropriation. Education, health and law and order will found a society which can make confident, uncompromised and rational choices on who must lead them. In a vicious cycle of manipulated dispossession of these rights by the occupational elites has kept the masses disinvested and disenfranchised. That explains why majority in South Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan will never be emancipated enough and will remain dependent on hand-outs by local elites. A beholden stock thus turns into a beholden vote-base. That explains the plight of our polity. These shackles must be broken. Not by force but by evolution.
The possible next step is to reinforce the basic democratic practice of elections in their fullest and freest form so that repeated cycles can place a premium on many of these occupational politicians to perform credibly in the interest of the people. A compromised electorate has sustained a facile political elite which then serves authority with the purpose to appease and find favour and preference. Only if we can iterate the system in its foundational purity and not attempt to design and fabricate in any imagined mold can we assure that we have made the first step towards instituting societal and political stability with the hope to deliver on alleviating our other vulnerabilities including economy. Or conmen and fly-by-night swindlers and grafters will reign supreme.
The road to this end is clear: do not forge or design ends which will remain unrealised even as the society and the economy plunge further; economy will need sustained work over years — no amount of wizardry can righten it in months. In-time elections thus are essential to reduce the weight of our baggage. It will also help a de-tracked system back on rails. It will be one-step closer to resolving our predicaments.