Pakistan’s Long Road to Electoral Reforms

Instead of going for an “overkill”, everyone on Pakistan’s political divide will be better off if the opposition’s “sit-inners” in Islamabad adopt the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) formula and concentrate simply on reforming the electoral system.

Posted on 09/17/14
By Ikram Sehgal | Via ViewsWeek
Opposition leader Imran Khan on his container at the Islamabad protest. (Photo by Dr Ashraf Abbasi via Facebook)
Opposition leader Imran Khan on his container at the Islamabad protest. (Photo by Dr Ashraf Abbasi via Facebook)

Imran Khan has turned off some in the drawing rooms of Pakistan with his rather disconcerting tactics and fiery rhetoric.  However, with “Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-type” method in his madness, he has struck a deep chord among the masses of Pakistan aiming for meaningful and effective democracy from the grassroots level upwards. For every vote lost in the drawing rooms he is possibly getting thousands more from those who have no drawing rooms. Flood victims protesting Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif’s visits and the recent PIA incidents are symbolic that the general public is reacting. Galvanized by his message the youth are joining the electoral rolls in droves, demography is on his side. Freedom from the evil of “democratic” bondage would be the greatest gift for the poverty-stricken and discriminated populace of this country. Feudalism and democracy cannot co-exist, will history record this as the moment where democracy got the better of feudalism in Pakistan?


The electronic media perceptions of Shaikh Rashid whispering sweet nothings in his ears makes a lot of Imran’s well-wishers want to throw up.   Those allegedly using Shaikh Rashid as a conduit to Imran Khan need to get their heads examined.


Aberrations like enormous funds being diverted from other priorities for the Metro-Bus projects notwithstanding, one cannot detract from Shahbaz Sharif’s efforts to deliver governance in the Punjab. However the deliberate prevarication in applying the rule of law despite the unambiguous indictment in the June 17 Model Town tragedy delivered by a one-man High Court judge tribunal is damning! Reportedly the incriminating evidence of the “Direct Conversation Record” (DCR) is the “smoking gun” “why have the “shooters” not come into action?”! Can the true picture about the Model Town horror ever emerge while Shahbaz remains Chief Minister?


Meant to shore up “democracy”, live TV coverage of the Joint Session of Parliament backfired in public perception, exposing the self-serving motivated intent of our legislators. The absolute farce on display in our Assemblies was disastrous. Our Parliamentarians are desperate to maintain the feudal status quo, preferably without local government!


The obnoxious stories targetting the Army for “scriptwriting” is partly the khakis’ own fault. The ISPR is unfortunately reactive instead of being pro-active, appeasing detractors on the one hand and on the other taking their friends for granted, or even ignoring them altogether. It is an insult to the uniform to repeatedly have to “clarify” that the military is “not siding with anyone”. The “appeasement” policy should have ceased after the wake-up call rendered by the “Hamid Mir” affair. Does it take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that the nasty story aired by a foreign news agency about a “split” in the Army emanated from someone for whom a particular Cabinet Minister has a fancy for?


Five general officers close to retiring or being newly promoted does not matter, what matters is the consensus the COAS evolves from his Corps Commanders, which he must convey to the Prime Minister, not publicly but privately.   The Prime Minister was wrong to give categorical denials in absolute contrast of facts on live TV and why was he mouthing “Geo, Geo” prompting the Federal Interior Minister during the Joint Session of Parliament?


In previous years the generals gave the commands for intervention and the soldiers were content following orders, this time around the rank and file are unanimously aligned with the message Imran and Tahirul Qadri are delivering.  There is a vast difference between supporting a political party or supporting a message, in this case the song more than the singers! Whatever their personal feelings, the generals have to take notice of the feelings widely pervasive in their command. Understanding that military intervention could be disastrous if the previous “scripts” are followed, give a mature military hierarchy credit for standing by seeing their country being looted while their soldiers continue giving the ultimate sacrifice in FATA and Swat. Give the generals (not five but all) credit for remaining patient in the face of grave provocation created by badmouthing through outright lies by fabrication and double-speak, not only in the Joint Session but outside Parliament.


Exceeding the norms of propriety from time to time, Imran’s tactics have been reasonably successful. Fixing the electoral system being the prime objective, for planning and executing strategy he (and his aides) need to bone up on Clausewitz’s first principle of war (and peace) the “Selection and Maintenance of Aim”. Demanding a Judicial Commission for the 2013 elections diverts from the “aim” and plays into the hands of feudals comprising the majority in Parliament. Consigned invariably to the dustbin of history, which Commission’s report has ever achieved anything in Pakistan? A legal passage to nowhere, the suggested “Terms of Reference” (TORs) is made to order filibuster geared to derail mass aspirations for a free and fair electoral process.


Once the electoral system is remedied by Parliament, the rulers will have a moral obligation to get a fresh mandate according to the reforms, it will also fulfill a legal necessity. Instead of going for an “overkill”, everyone will be better off if the “sit-inners” adopt the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) formula, concentrate simply on reforming the electoral system.


Failure to keep one’s aim simple can complicate matters that will lead to frustration and rage, that can turn into violence.  What will our patient generals do then, shoot thousands to prevent anarchy?


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