Building political parties, educate leaders and voters, are multifaceted tasks. In the Europe, most political parties have for 100-150 years grown out of ideologies and sector interests; they would often focus on specific trades, professions and livelihoods, or they would be related regional and local interests, such as concerns about rural drain and out-migration and urbanisation and industrialisation. Some parties would have clearer religious and moral concerns than others. In recent decades, large organisations and even political parties have been established to focus on certain broad fields, notably women’s equality, gender issues, environmental issues, global warming and climate change, and globalisation issues. Ideology, values and religion play a role.

In younger and developing countries, such as Pakistan, political parties are still mostly built around founding fathers and families. Even labour unions can have such traits, and certainly many interest organisations and NGOs. In future, I believe it is important that parties develop their programmes and choose their leaders democratically, and build their organisations around ideology and principles, first, and then move on to concrete tasks and practical politics. Let great names, old leaders and young relatives, have honorary seats and pedestals, but not power. I believe true parties that can live for long should focus on causes, based on traditions and new ideas, too. For example, PPP could become a party on the left; PML-N a more right-oriented party; PTI a perhaps a centrist, liberal party with focus on anti-corruption and honesty in public life; and so on. Other parties have their emphasis and focus, and all should develop clear programmes – and try to keep what they say they want to do – and they should not let leaders ‘inherit the throne’. Over time, such parties can be much stronger than dynastic parties with past glory rather than future ideas and ideologies. Concrete political plans should be led out of the parties’ principles. There is time to do some of this before the next general elections in Pakistan by May 2018. We should learn from the past, including from other countries’ successes and failures, noting, too, that in democracy, there is always both and there is always change – but something must at the same time be the foundation.

In a few recent articles, I have discussed aspects related to political parties in our time, especially in Europe, where we see that elections sometimes become quite unpredictable, such as in USA and France – and predictable, too, as is likely in Germany’s upcoming election on 24 September this year. The old and safe parties are based on ideology and principles, sometimes in pragmatic coalitions with more or less likeminded parties. The latter is what Angela Merkel has managed to handle so successfully in Germany, with certain broad basic ideas, if not quite ideologies.

Some would say that the old ideologies are dead, and that technocratic politicians are better at ruling than real politicians. I do not think so; I still believe that the socialist left ideology of sharing and caring, of people contributing to their ability, and receiving to their needs, are still valid and alive values and fundamental thoughts – yes, in many ways they are based on the social advice of Christianity and Islam.

On the other side of the political spectrum, there is the conservative, capitalist thinking, which emphasise the individual’s freedom to live and let live, to compete and succeed (or fail), to produce wealth and riches, and so on. Many would say that the world could not progress without such values, never mind that it is sometimes ruthlessness, leaving casualties on the roadside. The conservatives sometimes don’t want the state to help needy; they blame those who didn’t succeed and say they should pull themselves up by the bootstraps; individuals and charitable organisations, sometimes built on religious principles, should help the needy.

In between these two ideologies – which I still believe are useful to have in today’s political thing and party-building – we have something in the middle that borrows from both sides. I would say that none of the left’s or the right’s theories can succeed in extreme and pure forms, to the extent such would ever exist in the real world. Capitalism is good if regulated, the rich are taxed, the young entrepreneurs and newcomers in the trade are assisted, even subsidised and helped over hurdles and out of crises, when required. Market forces can otherwise easily be for the few successful, who may have inherited wealth, too, and certainly not for the workers who need safe and secure jobs, to build communities.

On the other side, though, socialism and communism are only good if the power of the state and party is curbed. It is the people that must have the control, not the bureaucrats and nominated leaders in party congresses and dim offices. Socialism and ‘socialism light’, notably social-democracy, are good for redistribution of wealth, for inclusiveness of all. The European welfare states could not have succeeded without the social-democratic machinery – and, we should add, without the capitalist private sector to create wealth. In key sectors in countries, even state-owned and controlled companies have a place, but run in a capitalist ways.

Yet, politics is not only about economy, maybe not even mainly; it is also about values and social organisation. We can have people who are economically conservative on the right, but who are socially modern and open-minded. Many Western conservative parties are like that. And we can have leftist parties who live quite a bit in the past as for social issues and how to organise society. That may in many ways be a challenge for the West’s social democrats and even true socialists today; such parties are not clear about the values and vision for the society they want in future. Sometimes, the conservatives, and indeed, parties in the centre, take up social issues, at least in specific sectors, better than the socialists and the conservatives themselves.

In Norway, there is a general election on the coming Monday 11 September 2017 – yes, with some Pakistani immigrant descendants as key candidates, such as Hadia Tajik and Abid Raja. The country’s largest party, the social-democratic Labour Party, seems not to have been clear in their definition of the ‘promised land’ they want to create, or they have not communicated well enough what they want. The Conservative Party, chaired by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, does not need to promise change and new things, because they seem to have done fairly well for the four years in power; they just want continuation of a steady enough course. Yet, there are growing inequalities in Norway – the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the immigrants, some ten percent of the population, constitute about half of the poor. In one of the world’s very richest lands, some people fall on the roadside, stay unemployed and live on welfare allowances for long and mat never able to become contributing members of their land. I believe that every person wants to contribute and be respected.

I have reflected on many basic issues in politics as the Norwegian election draws loser – there has been substance, nonsense, fun, worrying statements, and hopeful ideas, and more. It is also true that the two main parties, belonging to the social democratic and moderate-conservative traditions, are quite alike. The deeper differences would be more difficult to see.

As seen from outside, from Pakistan Labour and the Conservatives could almost have ruled in a coalition, the way the moderate-conservative Merkel has also included the traditional opposition, the Social Democratic Party, in her shifting cabinets. But not all politicians are as clever and inclusive as Merkel, and maybe, too, not all voters are as disciplined as the Germans. Besides, Germany does very well in Europe and the world – and many women still accept to stay as house wives and men accept that they are not the best paid workers.

Politics must not just be about technocratic and bureaucratic solutions, about who is best at administering and running a land. Politics is about values and direction for the people in the land. Where do we want to go and what land do we want to have tomorrow and in a more distant future? And if we want change, and in many fields people do want change in many fields, we must include all in debate and conclusion. I also believe that change should be gradual and good, at least bearable, for all. We cannot always have consensus, but broad overall agreements, based on values and principles. Norwegians are through with their election campaign for this time, but they have much to talk about still. In Pakistan, we have major debates ahead; the political parties must focus better on the important issues, their foundations and directions, to build better parties for the good people in a land that can be better for all.