Perhaps electables are the biggest curse for democracy. In ancient times the monarchs enforced their right to rule. In our era the electables exercise the right to be elected at all costs. Like the wars of succession brought the Mughal Dynasty down, the electoral manipulations threaten the very edifice of democracy. Electability is the anti-thesis of democracy and the most undesirable political façade of the 21st century.

PakistanTehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) is getting ready for another Inter Party Election (IPE). My friend Tasneem Noorani as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has a difficult task on hand. He is remembered in Faisalabad as one of the best Commissioners but an IPE is a totally different ball game. The father of the nation finally walked out of his party when the executive members disagreed on the framework for IPE. As Governor General (GG) he severed his links with his party and refused to meet its executive. Abdul Sattar Pirzada father of Hafeez Pirzada was sent to Ziarat to meet the ailing Quaid and to convince him to return to the capital. As Governor General he refused to meet him, at this point Pirzada Sahib first submitted his resignation from the party to gain audience of the Quaid. The rest is history, Quaid never made it alive back to the Governor General’s house. Muslim League was cornered by a few opportunists who exercised their right to be elected. As a result there was a split in the party. Political heavy weights like Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy were the first to leave and from their own parties. It was the same Awami League that is now in power in former East Pakistan and now Bangladesh.

Power of vote nourishes democracy. Control and manipulation does not work, service to the people is paramount. All the electables of the controlled and manipulated Ayub era democracy were totally annihilated in the very first free and fair elections of 1970. In East Pakistan Awami League won 160 out of 162 seats while in West Peoples Party carried 81 out of 138 positions. The mobilization of people was unstoppable, even bullets failed to contain the power of the ballot. That is why every election since then has been manipulated to contain this force of the masses.

An IPE is a double edged sword, if conducted properly the party is strengthened otherwise it results in fissures and rivalries that become unmanageable. The voters, candidates and commission all operate under the same roof. Conflict of interest (COI) has to be strictly enforced with serious penalties. A meaningful election requires complete neutrality of the electoral apparatus. PTI has not recovered from the irregularities of the last IPE mainly because the violators have not been punished. Some of these IPE winners riding high on their electability even managed to get tickets to contest the General Elections (GE). On a one-on-one contest between the electables of other parties most of them were ineffective. Unfortunately those who were involved in rigging in the IPE faced the same in the GE.

Right to rule or get elected has destroyed parties, also caused the breakup of the country in 1971 yet electables continue to dominate politics in the country. Muslim League, the founding party of the country, has the poorest record in this area; it has become a hatchery of electables. Even in the last days of Mushrraf’s regime not even one of his cabinet members resigned hoping to weather the storm with the dictator. His PML (Q) remained intact hoping to ride the establishment wave and get re-elected in 2007/2008 elections but Benazir’s assassination changed the scenario.

After licking their wounds in the 2008 electoral defeat the PML (Q) electables sought refuge in other parties. PML (N) as a matter of policy declined to accept them especially the individuals who managed to be a part of the Musharraf nucleus and were hoping to win the top slot. Chaudhris of Gujrat check mated them and installed an imported apolitical plastic Prime Minister, instead.

Political wilderness is deadly for electables. Finally they were able to maneuver their way into a clean ideological movement and succeeded into contaminating its mission of ‘Naya Pakistan’. PML (N) responded by accepting some of the less evil and subservient PML (Q) turncoats into its fold, leaving Chaudhris in isolation and PML (Like minded) into a limbo. After several failed electability experiment it was hoped that the menace would end with the fall of the fourth khaki dictator but it was not to be.

Electability is a product of the status-quo to ensure its longevity. Over the years the established parties like PML (N), PPP, MQM have penetrated deep into the administrative setup. By their respective control of areas they can ensure success of their candidates through manipulation and retain their tainted mandate denying the will of the people to prevail.

As a party of change PTI can bury electability through a free and fair IPE and then demand the same for GE through electoral reforms. For selfless leadership, Kaptaan has been compared with the Quaid who led the movement for the creation of Pakistan through his honesty and integrity. ‘Naya Pakistan’ calls for another principled struggle in which the tainted electables should have no role, it is time to end their curse. It is widely believed that the graveyards are full of people who were once considered indispensable. Let us bury the electables in political cemeteries for democracy to take roots and flourish and for ‘Naya Pakistan’ to emerge.