Perils of political engineering

There is a need to cultivate a new cadre of political leadership that genuinely represents aspirations of the Pakistani voters, writes Alauddin Masood

Perils of political engineering
Human society is not a static structure. Underpinned by ideas and values, a society is always in the process of being transformed, constituted and reconstituted in social interaction. Each interaction episode contains within it the possibility of innovation and change. The changes are, of course, progressive but often radical and sudden. Being progressive in nature, the change and transition is in keeping with the law of nature and thus unavoidable.

Learning from past experiences, the global community has devised a peaceful, organised and civilised way for carrying out political change through popular vote. Amongst the multiple functions of elections, the most noteworthy are: electing a government to run the affairs of the state, providing a mechanism for feedback between voters and the government, demonstrating public support for or repudiation of a regime, providing a means for the selection of political cadres and making the government answerable to the electorate.

Now, free and fair elections keep stirring a society at regular intervals, ensuring that the scum does not come to the top. But, the neo-feudal in the Land of the Pure do not miss any opportunity to rig elections and get elected to the legislatures by making hollow promises or threatening and coercing the electorate. When elected, they invariably support the party that enjoys the establishment’s blessings and engage in manipulations to get slots in the cabinet of ministers. Through such manoeuvres, they have so far succeeded in preserving the status quo, political influence and hold over the jagirs inherited from their forefathers.
Past experience tells that attempts to rig elections are often impregnated with serious consequences, including overthrow of popular civilian governments

If we peep into the history of this region, we find that British colonial rulers had cultivated a class of sycophants, collaborators and admirers. In return for supporting the colonialists, the British richly rewarded and fully patronised their collaborators. This led to the emergence of some new dynasties which, after Independence, opted to embed with the establishment to protect their fiefdoms, promote their vested interests and reap rich dividends, following the traditions of their forefathers.

However, past experience tells that attempts to rig elections are often impregnated with serious consequences, including overthrow of a popular civilian government in 1977. The game of musical chairs in the 1990s can be attributed to similar attempts by the powerful elements, who pitted the mainstream political parties against each other, resulting in the overthrow of the elected set-up.

Some circles believe that this time the powers that be have indulged in pre-poll rigging on a massive scale, intimidating vulnerable contestants amongst the party-ticket holders of two mainstream political parties to surrender their parent party’s tickets and jump upon the bandwagon of a specific political party or contest the July 25 election as independent candidates on the electoral symbol of jeep.

The situation prompted Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar to observe that the upcoming general elections have already been rigged and manipulated. ”Seldom before the poll process was so vitiated, so unfair and so grotesque…The invisible political engineers seem desperate for a fragmented and divided parliament that is easier to manipulate,” he said. It is an admitted fact that hung parliaments produce weak instable governments usually, casting gloom over economic activities, investment situation and growth.

Aware of the situation and realising the gravity of the situation, former Chairman of the Senate Mian Raza Rabbani has warned that any attempt to engineer the election result will cast dark shadows over the federation.

Reverting to coup-d’état’s, these remind one about the reply of a British prime minister regarding the possibility of civilian government’s overthrow in the UK. The PM said, “The possibility does exist, but it was remote because no politician in Britain would extend his or her support to an army-led government in England.”

Globally, voters are now far more enlightened and they have the wisdom and sense to elect their representative in free and fair elections. However, in manipulated elections, the minions of the ‘king’s party’ prefer to award tickets to the progeny of embedded dynasties, considering them to be electable black horses sure to win the elections. It goes without saying that in manipulated elections they always get elected, rather, surface to the top like scum. But, post-election they remain content with whatever role is assigned to them by the helmsman.

Even if they get a slot in the cabinet of ministers, their role in governance is marginal. It can best be explained through an episode, which occurred in the last decade when decisions on some crucial issues were taken by the kitchen cabinet of a prime minister. This prompted a journalist to enquire from a senior bureaucrat, why those issues were not placed before the meeting of the cabinet of ministers. At this, the Babu replied that serious matters are not discussed in public gatherings!

But, this did not prick the conscience of any of the cabinet ministers. No voice was raised in protest and no privilege was breached! Perhaps, they themselves also knew their worth, and over five dozens of them remained content so long as they continued to get their hefty salaries, perks, privileges and media coverage that they consider important for reinforcing their influence in the society.

As status quo brings scum to the top, it often results in leadership crises and emergence of ugly situations. The only way to ensure peace and stability is change, of course, a progressive change through free, fair and transparent elections that return enlightened, educated, honest and dedicated political workers, who are abreast of the problems facing the people, to the legislative assemblies. For this to happen, we need to pay attention to the strengthening of the political parties and giving opportunities to the educated and dedicated political workers from the middle class to contest the elections. Another pre-requisite is leashing the establishment so that it could not influence the elections at any stage – whether pre-election, during-election or post-election.

The writer is a freelance columnist based at Islamabad.