The feudal character of our political system has encouraged and promoted the politics of graft and entitlement in the country. The unconstitutional interventions by the military dictators on the pretext of rectifying the maladies of the system actually reinforced this culture, besides creating a civil-military imbalance. The failure of political leaders to reform the system and policies pursued by dictators, arguably, is the root cause of all the major tragedies that Pakistan has waded through, including dismemberment of the country; emergence of religious extremism; culture of disdain for the rule of law and representative politics; threat to national security and honour; a transactional Pak-US relationship; dismal state of human rights and citizens security; scarcity of resources to provide for health, education and social welfare and rampant corruption that has almost assumed cancerous proportions in our society.

The country is drifting towards the tipping point and people are losing their faith in democracy. Nobody in his right mind could think even for a moment - no matter how bad the things are - that our salvation and progress lies in any arrangement other than the one envisioned by the creator of Pakistan; a progressive democratic polity. There is undoubtedly a consensus among all stakeholders in the prosperous future for Pakistan that there is a dire need to get rid of the feudal character of our political system. The change is inevitable. Therefore, Dr Tahirul Qadri is not wrong in demanding an end to feudalism and reforms in the political system. However, the method suggested by him is not only unconstitutional, but also has an aura of a conspiracy to disrupt democracy. Needless to say, change must come only through constitutional means.

The PPP, which has the distinction of defending democracy through unparalleled sacrifices in whatever form it exists today, and has ensured during the last five years that the forces inimical to democratic process do not succeed in their nefarious designs and smooth transition of power takes place through ballot, owes it more to the people to effect the desired changes in the political system. The PML-N and all the other political forces, who believe in real democracy, also need to see the writing on the wall and get their act together.

The elections are around the corner and must be held under the present system without any delay or disruption. However, after the elections are held all the parties represented in Parliament, especially the one forming the government, must initiate the process of reforms on top priority basis and all parties must support that initiative sinking their differences to make the required constitutional amendment, as they have done in the case of 18th  Amendment and NFC Award.

Coming to the reforms that are needed to do away with the feudal character of our politics and eliminating the culture of graft and entitlement, my considered view is that proportional representation system provides the best solution. This system evolved in Europe during the 19th century, which is still prevalent in Russia, South Africa, New Zealand, Norway, Germany and a number of other countries with some variations suiting their own social milieus.

In this system, the people vote for the party and not for the candidates; thus all the contesting political parties get seats in Parliament according to the percentage of votes obtained by them. Then who represents the party in Parliament is decided on the basis of priority list of candidates provided by each party. The adoption of this system helps the parties in choosing the best available lot to represent them in Parliament, rather than looking for electables to grab political power and having resort to muster numbers by all means fair and foul, which is the hallmark of a single constituency system in Pakistan. This will eliminate the culture of blackmail and horse-trading, shifting loyalties and the corruption that goes with it.

The other advantage of this system is that it ensures the representation of smaller and regional parties in Parliament and brings them into the national mainstream, leading to a culture of collective responsibility. It also helps in curbing the fissiparous tendencies by providing all the political forces a forum to voice their viewpoint, develop a sense of belonging and make their contribution to the overall national well being and unity, which Pakistan needs so badly at the moment to fight the formidable challenges that it is facing.

Another reform that can ensure the success of the proportional representation system and make it a truly representative arrangement is the mandatory voting for all the eligible and registered voters. This will enhance the stake of the people in the state’s political affairs.

To add an element of certainty in regards to holding elections and ending the controversy on the caretaker setup, two more steps are also needed. A clause may be added in the constitution fixing a date for holding the elections, as is the case in USA so that the matter is not left to the discretion of the ruling party and the manipulation that is often done by the incumbent rulers. The format of the caretaker setup must also be decided once and for all and made part of the constitution.

These amendments may be made within a period of six months and fresh elections announced under the new system, instead of waiting for implementing these changes after five years. Surely, the people are not prepared to accept the continuation of status quo for long.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: ashpak10@gmail.com