There Is No Hope For Democracy When It Doesn't Exist Even Within Political Parties

The unique tendency of Pakistan to bear and miraculously sail through impossible situations is not exactly fortunate. We have grown resilient to lawlessness and drowning in monsoon floods, and yet we go on.

Here are 22 million souls in uncharted waters of misgovernance and lack of any policy to improve our situation. Our political parties, entrusted with the responsibility of strengthening democracy in the polity, hardly ever exercise democracy in their own ranks.

Autocratic political parties hold sway while our democratic ship is utterly rudderless, with debacles from economics, health, violence and failure of several successive governments in a row being common occurrences.

Our political bigshots are simply barren in coming up with any pro-people vision.

We have been experimenting with the nature of electorates since the birth of Pakistan. Between 1947 and 1958, there were no direct elections held in Pakistan at the national level. The first direct elections held in the country after independence were for the provincial assembly of Punjab in March 1951. The first indirect elections were held in 1954 and the second in 1962 – on a non-party basis.

The world is no stranger to the mistakes of others, nor to the time-tested wisdom of intellectuals that have been. While we were incessantly experimenting with democracy, Albert Einstein dispensed this wisdom upon the Germans: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. We wish we had listened to this man of unmatched genius.

To me, it seems as if Einstein was decidedly talking about Pakistanis. From 1970 till 2013, Pakistanis, bent over by misery and mocked by the international world, went through ten elections. Yet, the misery of our masses never ended through the ballot box. Rather, it only made questions about the vehicles of our political machinery more and more pertinent.

Our political machinery, our so-called vehicles of change, our political parties, making promises to our people, selling them fake dreams, have failed miserably to deliver because our political parties themselves suffer from political palsy.

The autocratic mindset of Pakistan’s political leadership is visible in the laws it has cleverly crafted to control and coerce the so-called elected representatives of the people of Pakistan.

These laws include the 14th amendment to the constitution of Pakistan, purposely built to quash dissent in a political party. One may only vote independently on a matter at the price of expulsion from the parliament itself. How can representatives in the shackles of such laws ensure social justice?

Add questionable elections in our political parties to the mix, and God help those genuine political workers who would vie to rise in the party ranks to raise issues important for the progress and prosperity of our people.

Family and finance are the only two driving forces of our political landscape. Leadership is handed over to heirs apparent and not to the deserving genuine workers struggling within the ranks – regardless of their ideas or vision. Similarly, those who falter in the financial arena almost certainly falter in rising to any important position. Resultantly, what we have are shallow ideas and more and more bulging pockets.

Can we even hope to rise as a nation and hold fair elections unless genuine democracy prevails in political parties?

Our destiny will be devoid of genuine change unless we initiate legislation compelling political parties of Pakistan to conduct nation-wide elections for political offices, from union council up to the district level. Only when people vote for local leaders will these leaders feel the pulse of their populous and hence work for the people, not for themselves.

As a humble political worker, I believe we cannot gain respect in the comity of nations until our state provides the security of life and liberty to our people, especially our women and children.

Our governance has failed the challenges of today’s world as we have the world's second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) with an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school, representing 44 percent of the total population in this age group.

How can we dream of putting Pakistan on the path of progress when we still have about 24 percent of the population living below the national poverty line? We simply won’t prosper while our governments fail to provide basic utilities to the population. Pakistan ranks number 9 in the list of top 10 countries with the least access to clean water, where 21 million out of the total population do not have access to clean water. India, Ethiopia and Nigeria are the top three countries without safe water.

It is painful to admit these facts, and it is painful to see that Pakistan has been made little more than a nursery of futile and failing dreams. Whatever we write about it, it seems as if we are only writing an elegy to our system. We hope there may eventually be a time that we may be able to write hymns of praise to our beloved country, instead, when it finally begins to look the way that Quaid-e-Azam envisioned it.