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Electoral reforms: democratic, constitutional way forward
 
 
 


SH Jilani
Successful democracies around the world, historically, have been a fruit of long and enervating political struggles. And Pakistan is not an exception, right after the war of the independence Muslims fought for their identity and rights.
Pakistan came into being after a long political struggle. But, unfortunately, since its inception the political history of Pakistan has been tainted with military interventions, that is why democratic institutions could not flourish in the country. Military interventions took place because there were no established democratic norms in the country. And setting up democratic norms is not enough; citizens of the country are required to be taught democratic values as well so that they can reject any non-democratic force to interfere in the political system. So far in Pakistan people have not seen stable democracy in continuation that is why they do not resist military takeovers. After the smooth transition of power from PPP to PML-N, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, people have started to have some faith in the democratic institutions. But this time some “democracy lovers” have run out of patience and decided to entice people to revolt against the elected government.
Realising the need and importance of strengthening the roots of democracy in Pakistan and addressing the concerns of opposition parties, Nawaz Sharif has taken a positive initiative of forming a committee on electoral reforms which, along with PML-N and PPP, will also have representation from all political stakeholders, including PTI, Awami Muslim League and MQM.
The basic idea behind the 33-member committee is to have a consensus-based approach towards long-awaited electoral reforms. The proposed committee shall have 22 members from the National Assembly and 11 from the Senate to ensure representation of both the houses.
This committee shall be having a reasonable time of three months to discuss, agree, formulate and then present its comprehensive and mutually agreed upon proposals regarding electoral reforms to the speaker of the National Assembly. This committee is essentially a continuation of the parliamentary committee formed during the previous regime of Pakistan People’s Party which has to its credit 18th and 19th amendments.
The mandate of the committee shall be to suggest essential constitutional amendments to facilitate the process of electoral reforms, evolve a selection criterion for the caretaker governments, free, fair and transparent elections, fairness in the processes and procedures of the Election Commission and speedy trial of election petitions.
Pakistan has a painfully long history of political failures and military interventions. And over the period of time the lesson that we have learnt as a nation is that disturbances in the democratic process have done nothing except to weaken the country and made it vulnerable to numerous internal and external threats. The political parties which have not been successful in obtaining a parliamentary majority in the previous elections have, recently, resorted to the tactics of street agitation in order to mobilise the people against the government. Such misadventures are justified only if the government is oblivious to the genuine demands of the opposition parties and the nation as a whole. But the tremendous level of flexibility shown by the present government, especially towards electoral reforms, does not leave any room for street agitation or anti-government activities. Essentially, Imran Khan is vowing to correct the political and democratic system of Pakistan. Then why he and his party are reluctant to become part of the forum where all his valid concerns can be addressed and taken care of.
A sane advice to Imran Khan, who has a reasonable popularity in the country, would be to refrain from giving this impression to the people that in the lust of power he has lost the patience to wait for his innings and is ready to hit the entire nation for a six! Therefore, instead of indulging in long marches, a prudent approach in this regard would be that PTI should avail itself of the opportunity of becoming part of the reform process and make constructive and positive contributions. This is the only way to an amicable solution to address his prevalent political grievances
Pakistan is in a state of war and continuous exposure to terrorism has seriously damaged our economy as well as our international image.
At this critical juncture of history the last thing every Pakistani needs to understand is that agitation against the government is not only going to be a threat to democracy, but will also divert the attention of the government from the war against terror. It will also indirectly facilitate terrorist activities in the country. Fatima Jinnah had also initiated an agitation against the military rule of General Ayub Khan, but during 1965 war, she called off her movement in the national interest. As a citizen of Pakistan, I strongly suggest that Imran Khan, following in the footsteps of great Fatima Jinnah, should set aside his political differences with Nawaz Sharif and contribute to strengthening democracy in Pakistan.

 
 
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