“While democracy must have its

organisation and controls, its vital breath is individual liberty.”

– Charles Evans Hughes

Pakistan is a unique country, since it has a vast potential of human workforce along with rich natural resources. But it is unfortunate that this potential has never been utilised for the progress and prosperity of its citizens. Many blame successive military dictatorships for the current state of affairs in the country. It is, therefore, time that the performance of all the democratic institutions is assessed.

More than anything else, the people today are concerned that their standard of living and income have slipped down to, perhaps, the lowest levels since the establishment of Pakistan. So if the federal government does not come up to their expectations and fails to perform, then the present attitude of indifference can easily be replaced by a complete loss of faith in the democratic system, which is now prevalent in the country.

It is the duty of the political parties and their leaderships to understand the gravity of the situation and put in place initiatives that will gradually change the outdated system built over the years, ensuring that democracy is, indeed, performing for the people.

At the moment, perhaps, it can be labelled as “monarchist democracy” and this needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. For example, the government’s decision to shift a Federal Secretary from Balochistan has created uncertainty among the civil servants belonging to the same province.

Likewise, cabinet formation, both at the federal and Punjab level, has led to serious concerns about merit and collective leadership, which is the hallmark of any parliamentary democracy around the world. At the federal level Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif was, indeed, handicapped due to the lack of availability of members in the National Assembly from other provinces compared to Punjab.

The situation, however, is entirely different in Punjab where Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif is calling the shots. There is a colour of clannish cronyism not only in the posting and transfer policy of the civil bureaucracy, but also cabinet formation that has not been purely according to the merit of members elected by the people. It was, for instance, widely assumed that Rana Sattar from Sialkot may get a berth in the provincial cabinet because he won the last elections in the National Assembly by defeating PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain by a margin of 55,000 votes. Though he is a member of the Punjab Assembly, yet has been ignored or sidelined.

Similarly, Mian Atta Mohammad Manika, who contested the election on the insistence of the Sharif family from Pakpattan is relegated to the slot of social welfare. He is the only member, who has not only won his seat on several occasions, but also the National Assembly elections and is the only member of the Punjab Assembly, who won the District Council Chairmanship of Pakpattan when the first polls were held. He remained Education Minister and narrowly missed on the job of Chief Minister of Punjab.

Another inductee Mr Javed Farrukh, who has been appointed as Agricultural Minister, is a classic example of conflict of interest, since he owns a large seed distribution company in Arifwala.

Similarly, regions comprising South Punjab have not been given the expected quota of ministerial slots, which may in the long run damage the political ability of PML-N.

On the other hand, the menace of terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Quetta and Karachi has continued. Side by side target killings in Karachi and no-go areas in some parts of Punjab are issues calling for urgent attention by both the federal and provincial governments.

Next, the problem of energy has worsened even after the payment of Rs332 billion of the circular debt and the PML-N government is reluctant to give a timetable as to when it will be able to reduce loadshedding to manageable levels.

Moreover, the increase in petroleum prices and electricity tariffs has further created problems for the masses, who were expecting a dramatic change for the better when they voted PML-N into power. Since that has not happened, the disillusionment in the whole democratic process is building by the day. Unless swift and visible improvements are not made by the political leadership, the faith of the people in democracy will continue to fall. Indeed, it is not a good sign for Pakistan and its economy.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.