Electables have proven to be the biggest impediment to change. They negate the basic concept of ballot driven democracy. Influence has always existed amongst humans but it should not lead to foul play. Democratic order does not accept the right to rule or to get elected against the will of the people. In the words of a poet:
‘In democracy individuals are counted not weighed’
Functional democracies of the world have formulated various methods to create balance and rationality. In UK the birthplace of parliamentary democracy is an appointed House of Lords and elected Commons. Pakistan also has a bicameral legislature. While the national assembly is directly elected by the people, the Senate is elected indirectly by the provincial assemblies. It is this upper house that has brought balance in law making. Several ill-conceived legislations have been blocked by the Senators. In the nineties Mian Nawaz Sharif desired to be the Caliph of the Islamic Republic. The bill was passed by the national assembly but could not become law due to defeat in the Senate. However, the recently legislated electoral reforms bill is a serious blot on the credibility of this house.
State sponsored political strong-arming was blatantly used during the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. He called it Basic Democracy (BD), the elected representatives were called BD members. The Electoral College was limited to 80,000 members 40,000 from each wing of the country. In the 1965 Presidential elections Ayub Khan used the ‘Thana’ to ensure electability. Despite his coercive mechanisms the dictator lost to Madre Millat in Karachi. The students surrounded the police stations as a result the SHO’s were not able to control the BD members of their respective areas who then voted freely for Ms Jinnah. It proved to be the beginning of the end for the mighty General.
The 1970 elections remains the only credible electoral exercise in the country till today. It is not clear whether it was an aberration or a model for our democratic order. Most electables had to lick their wounds. Influence, clan, tribe, money, local grouping, manipulation everything failed against the will of the people exercised through a credible ballot. Both victorious parties relied on ideology to attract the voters. Mujib’s Awami League (AL) fought for autonomy, while Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) offered social equality ideology prevailed over electability in the only free and fair election ever held.
Opinions differ about the conduct of elections in 1970 and its aftermath which resulted in the breakup of Quaid’s Pakistan. People overwhelmingly voted for change. Awami League (160/162) and People’s Party (81/138) emerged as major political players. In Lahore Bhutto’s party won all the seats. Comrades like Dr. Mubashir Hassan and Sheikh Rashid (Baba-e-Socialism) were elected with thumping majority. Since then there have been ten manipulated elections and two fake referendums mainly by the connivance of the establishment.
Recently in Punjab and Sindh the high courts had to intervene in the appointment of Inspector Generals of Police. With their long stints in power both PML-N and PPP control the administrative set up.
Electables do not play by the rules of democracy as they consider their influence above any order. PTI the party of change also came under attack of the electables in the Inter Party Elections (IPEs) held in 2012. Since then the party has been on a roller coaster ride with internal divisions between the ‘idealogues’ who desire change and electables who represent status-quo. PTI was launched as a party of change. Role of the electables has to be defined and contained for the Tehrik to lead the crusade for ‘Naya Pakistan’ otherwise it will be business as usual. The country has been in political wilderness for 70 years, the scourge of the electables has to be understood and managed for democracy to flourish. Another credible ballot in 2018 remains the only viable option with limited role for the electables. Those who defy ballot defeat democracy, it is time to weed them out.