Pakistan’s ruling coalition says the Senate election has been ‘stolen’ from them, the Opposition panel winning far more votes than expected. You can ‘steal’ things from a person only when he owns it, did Nawaz Sharif already “own” the Senate before the elections actually took place? Having purchased the votes are they now upset that they didn’t get their money’s worth? With Nawaz Sharif’s (and Maryam’s) very unique and weird understanding of democracy that election results prove court judgments right or wrong, they have every reason to be shocked by the opposition winning. That logic would confirm that the judiciary was right in disqualifying him! This Senate controversy has been force-multiplied by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by conveniently bailing out the PML-N candidates by letting them run as “independents”. What rot! With their nomination papers being subject to challenges, is the Senate legally constituted?
The Senate’s indirect elections have been under severe criticism for years because of the vote purchasing going on unabated over the years, it continues as a horror story for those really interested in the progress of democracy in Pakistan. Can anyone explain the travesty why it resembles the unelected House of Lords rather than the directly elected US Senate? Modeled on this British system where our National Assembly is directly elected and the Senate is not, our present version of democracy is colonial, feudal and farcical, only selectively democratic. The Magna Carta eleven centuries ago proved that it is in the DNA of the feudal to make promises that can be easily broken without fearing any accountability. Blatantly camouflaging their inherent feudalism over the centuries as a “democracy”, the British successfully call theirs a “constitutional monarchy”. To counter the widespread anti-German protest in Britain during World War I, the royalty persisted with the “constitutional royalty” fraud by changing their very German “Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” name in 1917 to the more British-sounding “House of Windsor”. The basic principle “of the people, by the people and for the people” was mutilated by our “democracy” being intrinsically more flawed than a “constitutional monarchy”. Why do you think that our “democratic” feudal leaders never allow the “Local Bodies” to function? Being scathingly critical in The Telegraph in Aug 2015 Leo McKinstry could well be talking of the indirectly elected Pakistani Senate, “the continuing survival of the Lords is an indictment of the cowardice and inertia in British politics. Such an obese, obsolescent body should have no place in a modern democracy. …. every argument used to justify its existence is wrong. Its supporters like to pretend that it is packed with the wise elder statesman, brilliant experts, and distinguished public servants. This could not be farther from the truth: most of its members are souped-up councilors, political apparatchiks, failed MPs and party donors.” Subject to fraud and manipulation, the indirect election is an enduring disgrace which only serves to perpetuate feudalism, an insult to the concept of democracy.
Indirectly elected individuals becoming the electoral college for an indirectly elected president further corrupts the system. Most high officials in the Roman Republic, including members of the Senate, came from a few wealthy and noble families. A minority of powerful Romans got overwhelming control through a system of gerrymandering. Our indirectly elected Senators not having claims to electability because of their popularity, competence and/or integrity through the universal franchise, are they really any different from the 20 centuries-old Roman Senate?
While we stopped short of making Senate seats a ‘birthright’ of some people, the indirect election seems to be the second worst option. Over the years Senate seats have been used by the leaders of our political parties to accommodate their favorites or reward people for favors already done or expected from them later. This undemocratic practice fosters corruption, nepotism, and favoritism to be a part of Pakistan’s political system. Criticised by all over “democratic” parties the Senate Elections 2018 has graphically shown why the electoral process needs correction.
Giving an equal representation to all four provinces is not enough. To successfully fulfill their tasks towards good governance the Senators need to have a precise understanding of the Federal System in Pakistan and why it doesn’t function well. They not only need to know all rules and regulations for running a proper Senate meeting but extensive experience in public service, professions or other qualifications that enable them to work efficiently and achieve change in their terms in office. Given the manner candidates for Senate seats are “selected” and then indirectly “elected”, horse-trading of the worst kind calls the whole process of democracy into question. There is demand for reforms in the Senate election for an open ballot system and direct elections. In addition, the Senate has to be made more meaningful by giving it a budgetary oversight.
Although the Senate was conceived to be a forum for representation of provinces, it has become a representative of political parties which is contrary to its intended task. That was demonstrated by this election of the Senate Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the political parties dealing and wheeling who would support which candidate, the names of whom were withheld until the last minute. The conduct of the Senate Elections 2018 records how weird the understanding of what democracy is in the heads of our politicians, and how it has to be implemented. The Senate elections have cast another shadow on our political landscape as well: the forthcoming general elections. One can only hope that the buying and selling of loyalties do not symbolize the way the next general elections (whenever) will be fought. Nawaz Sharif has declared that the electoral vote is the real judgment about his conviction by the Supreme Court will go overboard to prove himself right. By doing so he may well upset the proverbial apple-cart of democracy in Pakistan.
Instead of the traditional “doctrine of necessity” route the Armed Forces usually follow to “fix” things, the present circumstances make it justifiable for the superior judiciary despite the patience exercised by them to apply a judicial ‘doctrine of necessity’. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s concept of combatting “clear and present danger” inculcates the spirit of the law rather than blindly following its wording. Can one give blind adherence to the Constitution when democracy is used as a camouflage to deliberately criminalize society? Because of one’s bounden duty and obligation to do what is morally right for the nation and its people, it is not only dishonest to take refuge in the verbatim interpretation of the words of the Constitution but cowardly, too.
The writer is a defense and security analyst.