Politics of patronage has been the norm in Pakistan. Leverage is tolerable whereas manipulation is deadly for democracy. The choice is between credible ballot and blind bullet- nothing in-between works. Ayub Khan drafted the script for “Daftar Aur Fauj ki Siasat” (Politics of Patronage) that continues to play havoc with the nation and its vital institutions till today. Only the Khakis have survived by carefully watching their institutional interests sometimes even at the cost of the nation.

The script for “Daftar Aur Fauj ki Siasat” was drafted at GHQ in 1958. Being 58 years old, it has outlived its utility but is being followed by all parties- even PTI has not been spared. Electability is an anti-thesis of democracy. For the will of people to prevail ballot has to be supreme. Manipulated elections do not ensure mandate in fact they take away the right to rule. In the 21st century with a free press “Daftary” governments cannot deliver as they get exposed very easily. If the police force is used for electioneering, it cannot ensure law and order.

The Khakis under Raheel Sharif is a different outfit. In the Zia regime instead of soldiering they indulged in property dealing. Thank God, under professional leadership they have moved in the right direction. After repeated failures of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) they are now involved in the maintenance of law and order at the polling stations resulting in peaceful elections. But peace alone cannot ensure a credible ballot. While the “Fauj” is neutral today the Dafter and Daftaris are not.

No country can survive without functional institutions otherwise the collapse is imminent as we face every day. The four martial laws followed by their propelled political leadership have seriously dented the administrative set up. Merit, rules, regulations are ignored and bypassed. All appointments are loyalty based, capability is not considered.

The democratic set up is built around the ballot. In the sixties/seventies we the students forced the first free and fair elections in 1970. It was the street power that prevailed. Every system has to build around firm foundations. Democracy calls for participation and service to the people. Leaders who get elected through the foul play of “Daftaris” invariably fail to control them; instead of public welfare they seek vested self interests.

No one seems to be interested in determining the will of the people. The exploitative mechanisms are well entrenched. ECP has to rely on the administrative machinery of the government which is no longer neutral. The Sharif’s and PML (N) have ruled Punjab for over 15 years.

Baboos and Qazis blindly obey their orders.

Stuffing of ballot boxes, manipulation of voter lists, plots, loans, permits, appointments, promotions, publicity campaigns etc. are obediently done to please their masters. The country and its resources are squandered at will. Accountability and transparency is totally missing. The high profile project like China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has not been spared. Even Chief Ministers of smaller provinces are not taken on board. Opposition parties are also kept in the dark. There are kitchen cabinets where most decisions originate totally in disconnect with the public and its needs.

For good governance and rule of law, a credible ballot is the way forward and no one seems to be interested in it. Established political parties like PML-N and MQM can manipulate any electoral exercise because of their long stints in power. Our neighbor India has succeeded in building an effective election mechanism whereas the party in power can be voted out. At the centre BJP prevailed over congress but lost control of New Delhi. In case of complaints immediate re-elections are held to maintain the integrity of the system.

Being the only functional institution the Khakis can get the democratic order back on track. Elections should be conducted under their control. The administrative machinery should be flown in from another province for conducting the electoral process under strict neutrality.

All candidates must fulfill constitutional requirements for the contestants. Like India the election period can be extended to ensure a credible and an in-disputable ballot. The Khakis can then return to the barracks to meet their security responsibilities.

Politics of patronage have badly failed. How can this organization deliver law and order, when it seems like a game of musical chairs where one has to keep rotating to sit on a chair? People in authority have to take an oath to serve the country and follow the constitution. I usually pose a simple question to my friends (Siasis, Kazis, Baboos, Khakis) that who is defending the constitution? The anonymous answer is no one. In the Armed Forces every commissioned officer is required to take an oath to defend the constitution, so do the judges but almost none of them live up to their oath. The public at large does not matter or count. Khakis can make a real difference by publishing all that they know followed by another credible election putting an end to the ‘Daftar Aur Fauj ki Siasat’ that was started 58 years ago to contain the first Islamic democracy of the world.