Designing a Better Democracy for Pakistan

Posted on July 10, 2009
Filed Under >Nadeem Ul Haque, Politics
35 Comments
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Nadeem ul Haque

Is our democracy working?

The writers of our constitution merely copied Westminster paying little heed to the need for developing further checks and balances to allow the democratic institutions to evolve and take root. Remember England has a system that is fully in motion having evolved over centuries.

We, on the other hand, have to start a new system.

As any mechanical engineer will be able to tell our learned controllers of thought, the laws of motion tell us that starting up a system is harder than maintaining the momentum of a system that is already running. We have to jump start the democratic system and then try to warm up the engine so that it will maintain its momentum.

As our friendly mechanical engineer will tell us, this requires considerable power and careful monitoring. You cannot just turn the ignition of election once and have a perfectly working system. Other safeguards and perhaps continuous and rapid ignition thrusts may be required. For example, might not quick, annual elections for, say ten years at least, enforce more responsible behavior from the politicians.

And could more constitutional amendments not be made to introduce a variety of checks and balances that seek to distribute power and not concentrate it, for concentration of power is indeed corrupting.

Historical evidence has shown:

  • Time and again we have seen that elections, as currently conducted, return the same individuals that have pillaged the country both in our democratic and non-democratic periods.
  • Elections alone, have failed to produced responsible or even itnelligent government. The methods of government, the law books, and the institutions remain unchanged whether we have democracy or not. Success has not been achieved after many attempts at jump-starting.
  • The engine of democracy is clogged by a legislature that time and again involves itself not with its principal task of legislation but with personal aggrandisment and childish games.

Perhaps, it is time we learnt from our learned mechanical engineer.

Let us carefully look at our design of democracy and see how we can alter it to achieve a democratic outcome and not just observe democratic form.

Let us seek to better define democracy and that which we want from democracy. Having defined the term and our objectives, let us consider the best means available to achieve those objectives. Only thus might it be possible to foster the development of an elected leadership more interested in delivering democracy and our society’s objectives to us than in lining their pockets.

Might not a debate on the modalities produce a better design for democracy?

Our elected representative such as they are have begun to debate an amendment. What surprises me is why are our intellectuals silent on this important issue? So Please tell me what amendments to the constitution would you like to see.

Dr. Nadeem Ul Haque was the former head of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economists (PIDE).

35 responses to “Designing a Better Democracy for Pakistan”

  1. wsd says:

    There are some good suggestions posted here. I will rather discuss something more basic and then present a few ideas from my side.
    The basic question is who will impliment these ideas and why?The problem is that some how all these suggestions laed to more accountability, more transperency and more institutionalization rather than shady,personal and self serving govts. that we have….None of these suggestions suits them.Above all I do not think that any type of legislation can stop the high and mighty of this country from doing anything…Its not that we do not have any laws, the problem is that we do not want to impliment these laws.
    In the end I have only one suggetsion ( i understand that my question is applicable here also!!!!); general elections every 3 years and let the people filter these looters.Unlike others i firmly believe that people of Pakistan always decided what was best among the given options……..The irony is that the options they had very too few and too ordinary most of the times.

  2. Chanz says:

    How about this – voting is made mandatory (as in some european countries eg. Belgium) but the voting list should include a ‘none of the above’ vote : in order to win, the leading candidate must have, for instance, more ‘for’ votes than there are ‘none of the above’ votes.

    This might lead to many problems in the beginning with many constituencies having no conclusive winner but on the other hand political parties will be forced to purge divisive figures from their ranks and it may pave the way for more mainstream, universally respected people replacing what passes for the current political class in this country?

    Furthermore, currently, most disenchanted people simply don’t vote because they feel their vote will be useless or that they do not like any of the candidates – this way they will be forced to vote but will have the option of saying ‘we don’t want ANY of these people as our leaders’ – it would probably lead to more interest and a better sense of involvement in the political process no? What do you guys think?

  3. Yunus says:

    I think we should establish democracy from grassroots. Even though this ‘democratic’ govt has decided to put ‘administrators’ instead of elected nazim.

    Have nazim elections after 2 years
    Only people who have been elected nazims twice or more should be allowed to become city nazim.
    Only people who have been nazims thrice or more should be allowed to become MPA.
    and so on..

    This way we will get rid of imported leaders and their kids. Even if we get Balawal and Hamza they would be required to do time at the lower level

  4. History always makes substantive decisions and we must apply definite experiments to design a better democracy. First of all we will have to find out the merits and demerits of the democracy, majority and corruption both are demerits according a real concept of the democracy. Here at present majority goes to Punjab and corruption goes to Sindh. Therefore it seems that here is an infection in the body of our country. Pakistan needs an injection of equal representation among the four provinces then after we may get ability to design a better democracy.

  5. @Espnioza: There is no secular state in real world just like Harry Potter exist in books only. Even the self acclaimed biggest secular states, India and USA are unable to keep themselves away from Hinduism and Christianity respectively.

    You need to learn a bit about Islamic history then you will realize what actually a democracy is and how a religion can promote more liberalism then pseudo secularism. It was the democracy that Muslims’ Prophet Muhamamd(saw) appointed AbuBakr(RA) as a 1st caliph rather than his own cousin Ali(RA) and it was purely based on merit. That’s other thing it was not like a group of people and they wanted dictatorship within Islam. Similarly Caliph Omar(RA) exhibited practical “Secularism” when he conquered Jerusalem and allowed Christians and Jews and of the region to worship in their places freely.

    Islamic Sharia gives more freedom than what West can dream about. It’s just ignorance that people do not like to seek reality and they learn about Islam from CNN and BBC.

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