As the elections are over, the real work can begin. Yes, it all begins now.
But first, I believe all Pakistanis should celebrate the new era when one elected Parliament succeeds another, without any military men’s interference. It is a great time! Democracy may finally have grown roots in the country, and we hope they are deep enough to let the democratic flowers grow.
True, there were forces before and during the elections that wanted the process to be derailed. But they were relatively few and extreme, misguided or marginalised to such an extent that they did not feel part of the greater society. It is the government’s duty to ensure that all men and women feel part of the society. That goes for class, creed, gender, level of education, vocation, social status, ethnicity, and other things that separate people in the country. One of the real tests of a government would be to reduce differences between people.
Pakistan needs economic growth and development. But there is also need for tax collection from the rich and redistribution of wealth to the poor. The rich, too, must be properly included in the greater society. There is need to share the education expenditures used on the upper segments with the small allocations to the poor - not only in higher education, but also at primary level. Owners of factories and businesses should not take all the profits themselves, but pay their staff well and have proper work and safety systems, health insurance for workers, literacy and other adult education classes, etc. The private sector should realise that welfare organisations and labour unions are needed and must be promoted. And if they don’t see it - and they, probably, don’t - the government must ensure appropriate legislations and programmes. And Pakistan must get around to get ‘education for all’ implemented, seen as an economic and development investment.
Another moral responsibility, which the politicians now must handle in inclusive ways, is how to work with those one disagrees with. A day after the elections and the prognoses indicated that PML-N was going to win, the media reported that the candidate for Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, had said he was not going to work with any other party. The next day, he said he wanted to work with independent members, not any of the major parties. Yet, the damage was already done; he had shown an arrogant and autocratic streak. Let us hope he was just overwhelmed by his party’s great success.
It is important that the winners and losers in elections establish respectful working relationships, without having to change their stands and policies. The majority party or parties must take into consideration the opinions of the minority, the opposition in Parliament. For example, when there are issues that the minority parties feel strongly about, the majority must discuss and, perhaps, even modify their policies before decisions are made. Sometimes, the rulers must allow for long debates before it can make its decisions so as not to alienate those who disagree.
Obviously, there is need for party-to-party discussions, and often, wider information campaigns and public debates. In our time, the major decisions are based on research and studies, not only political opinions and values.
In Norway, we have had several such cases. It took decades before it was decided that women should have the right to decide on abortion. It took even longer to decide that the Church of Norway should not be a government department, as was the case until May last year; and still (the male and female) bishops and pastors receive their salaries from the government, while Muslim and other congregations are entitled to government support.
It is essential that the majority refrain from heavy-handedness and takes into consideration the opinions of the minority groups. This is especially important in fields where values and principles are at stake. In rare cases, the minority groups may even have to be exempted from following the majority decisions.
The minority must also accept the right of the majority to make decisions, and it must not sabotage plans and implementation of decisions. In America under Obama, it seems that the Republican Party, currently with majority in one of the two houses in the Congress, seems to obstruct and sabotage important initiatives by the President and his Democratic Party. There seems to be little will for real debate and compromise.
Having said that, Pakistan has limited democratic traditions and experience; the country is an old feudal land, and, indeed, a class society; Pakistanis often have trade and business mindsets; and finally, religion is important, but should its role be debated in political situations.
I believe that the coming five years under the centre-conservative rule of PML-N, if all goes well, will lead to many positive developments, especially in the economic sector. I also believe that the foreign policies within the region and globally, including the relations with America, will be positive and make clear that Pakistan is, indeed, a sovereign state.
Yet, in one field, notably as regards the workers’ rights and the development of labour unions, I do not foresee major positive government initiatives. Here, the civil society, labour unions, and various professional and other groups, must play their role. Improved workers’ rights are never granted; they have to be fought for.
During the next five years, until the next elections, I hope that all the political parties in Pakistan will become more professional organisations, not fiefdoms of families and charismatic individuals only. They should learn from the development of parties in Europe and elsewhere. Foreign and local civil society organisations can assist in party development. Yet, they must all remember that ‘all politics is local’ and all organisations must be indigenous and grow from the bottom up.
Allow me to add, since tomorrow is the National Day of Norway, the 17th of May, that there are lessons to be learnt from that little land, which was earlier quite poor and the “last in Europe” and is now prosperous with a sizeable Pakistani community. The political parties there are quite mature with cordial relations with each other, even if they disagree. The country has a myriad of strong organisations, in addition to the parties. They are all included in the public debate, and most people are members of several civil society organisations. This is what we must have in Pakistan, too. Everyone must feel that they have a stake in society and can influence. The many youth who voted this time, and the impressive number of voters overall, must continue working now, not just come out at the next election. As a matter of fact, it all begins now, for all responsible citizens and elected officials.
Again, Pakistan should be proud of most aspects of this year’s election. Well done and good luck.

The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with experience from research, diplomacy and development aid.