Democracy as a system of governance was envisioned by the founding father of Pakistan who had an unswerving belief that it was the only system through which Pakistan could achieve the objectives of independence and win a respectable place in the comity of nations. But unfortunately even after 70 years of independence democratic dispensation as envisioned by Jinnah remains an elusive dream. While the intellectuals and political analysts often tend to blame the military dictators for derailing democracy and not allowing it to take roots in the country, they conveniently neglect the fact that our politicians who formed representative governments interspersing the military rules and those in the opposition never made sincere efforts in strengthening democracy and bringing systemic reforms that were needed to sustain it. They have placed their own narrow political interests above the national interests and regrettably focused their energies more on destabilizing the sitting elected governments and consequently consigning the country to an unending political instability. The crass politics of nineties bears testimony to this sad state of affairs.

The hopes rekindled by smooth transition of power through 2013 elections in regards to the viability and reinforcement of democracy and the prevalence of democratic norms have received a big jolt due the prevailing political circumstances in the country, where the focus of the opposition parties is either seeing the back of the sitting government pre-maturely or creating insurmountable hurdles for it to govern the country in a constitutional manner. The controversy and impasse on the constitutional amendment for de-limitation of constituencies on the basis of latest census results is quintessential of undemocratic behavior of the opposition parties.

In the backdrop of the latest census which has necessitated fresh de-limitation of the constituencies of National and provincial assembly seat as required under the constitution warranting an amendment to do so, the government took the initiative of arriving at a consensus with the political parties on the amendment bill to ensure that the task was accomplished in time for the ECP to carry out necessary de-limitation for holding the next general elections as per schedule. All the parties consented to the amendment and its contents. But when the bill was presented in the Assembly PPP and MQM backed out of their commitment and created a deadlock. The Speaker has held four huddles with the political parties so far to resolve the issue with no apparent success.

The PPP and MQM are insisting that the matter should be referred to the CCI simultaneously reiterating that the results of new census are not acceptable. This is clearly an afterthought since none of these parties had raised these objections in the deliberations chaired by the Speaker National Assembly. They are also insisting that under the circumstances the elections should be held according to the existing de-limitation based on the previous census. Though the PTI is not demanding what the PPP and MQM are asking the government to accept but its demand for early elections means holding elections on the basis of the previous census.

The government view is that it would create a constitutional crisis in the country because after the new consensus elections cannot be held on the basis of the de-limitation done on the basis of 1998 census. The position taken by the PML (N) government is quite legitimate and reflects its commitment to hold the next elections on time to ensure continuation of the democratic process in the country notwithstanding the fact that Punjab which is the bastion of PML (N) political power would lose nine NA seats to other provinces.

It is an issue of utmost national importance but regrettably our politicians and political parties are indulging in senseless politicking not realizing the consequences of their actions. If the amendment is not carried out immediately and ECP authorized to go ahead with the de-limitation process it would not be able to organize the next elections in time. The ECP has already warned the political parties in this regard also reiterating that new elections were not possible on the basis old de-limitations.

If the elections are to be held in time then the constitutional amendment is a must. And if the deadlock continues and the elections are not held on schedule it would create myriad of complications. The federal and provincial governments after the expiry of their mandated period would lose the constitutional legitimacy to rule unless their tenures are extended. But the question would arise as to how it could be done and by which authority? There is no constitutional provision to cater to such a scenario except when Emergency is enforced under article 232 when the parliament can promulgate law to extend the tenure of the assemblies by one year.

The dilemma is that if the elections are held on the basis of old de-limitations done on the basis of 1998 census it could trigger litigation in the superior courts questioning the validity of the polls as already warned by the ECP and the entire exercise could be declared null and void creating utter political chaos and confusion beside pushing the country into an undesirable constitutional crisis.

In the interest of continuation of democracy and stability in the country which is very much warranted due to the diabolical challenges confronting the country, the politicians need to revisit their stance on this crucial issue. The country cannot afford a political crisis at this critical juncture of its history. Politicking can wait for better times. The attempts to create a political crisis based on political vendetta would not only harm the interests of the parties doing so but would also throw a pal of gloom on the national horizon. They must all join forces to ensure timely holding of next general elections and smooth transition of power through the power of the ballot. Let the people be the final arbiter. The opposition parties must adopt legitimate, constitutional and democratic means to win the franchise of the people and contribute positively in consolidating the gains of democracy. The culture of self-inflicted disasters and politics sans sanity must give way to nationalistic outlook wedded to the cause of reinforcing democracy and providing good governance to the masses.